Diane Sparks of Park Ridge admits that her golden retriever Wrigley is about 15 pounds overweight.
But her 8-year-old dog has suffered from hip dysplasia two times, which makes physical activity difficult.
“You can’t really exercise her,” Sparks says.
Overweight Dogs and Cats
Wrigley is not alone in her weight loss battle. A recent study from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) found that 53 percent of cats and 55 percent of dogs are overweight or obese.
The APOP study, which has been conducted annually since 2007, finds that pet obesity has grown each year. This year’s research suggests that about 50 million cats and 43 million dogs in the nation are overweight or obese.
How to help your pet lose weight
Dr. George Rudawsky, a veterinarian at Northwest Animal Hospital in Des Plaines, says pet weight gain is definitely a problem, but there are steps owners can take to help their dogs and cats lose weight.
“The main thing is portion control,” he says, adding that switching to low-calorie pet food and treats is a good idea. “Dog treats can have a significant amount of calories, so it doesn’t take much.”
Sparks’ dog Wrigley is on low-calorie food, and instead of dog treats, she is rewarded for good behavior with salt-free rice cakes, fruit or vegetables.
“I break off a small bunch of broccoli and give it to her,” Sparks says. “She loves it and it’s good for her.”
Veggies to Lose Weight
Rudawsky also recommends substituting pet treats with vegetables.
“You do want to bulk them up with something, or else they’ll be starving and digging through the garbage looking for things to eat,” he says.
Since she strictly limits the amount of dry food that Wrigley eats, Sparks sometimes mixes the dog food with some green beans or peas to give her food a little bulk.
Add in the Exercise
As for exercise, Rudawsky says to “start slow;” you can begin with just a short walk and work your way up.
For pets with physical disabilities, there are alternative forms of exercise like hydrotherapy for dogs at Splash Dog, Inc., in Des Plaines, a program that Rudawsky recommends.
Sparks has taken Wrigley to Splash Dog, which she says was a great program, and she’s even gotten acupuncture for her dog to help her lose weight.
“You do what you got to do for them,” Sparks says. “They can’t help themselves.”