Resolve to get you and your pet in better shape
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By Mickey Zeldes  December 20, 2013 12:00 am

If you’re like most people, right about now you are making a list of new year’s resolutions. And I’ll bet at the top is to lose weight (or get in shape, which is a more PC way of saying that you’re due to lose a few pounds).

Does that hold true for your pets, too? We’ve all heard about the obesity epidemic in America’s children, but did you know the same is true of our dogs? We are killing them with kindness (and treats), and it’s no laughing matter.

It only takes a pound or two for a small dog to be considered overweight, and the health issues that it causes are costing owners thousands, if not millions, of dollars in veterinary care (for those who can afford it). It’s also costing years of life and quality of life for our pets. Small dogs especially do not have the bone structure to support lots of added weight. It causes severe back, hip and leg issues and can cripple a dog. The extra fat around the heart makes it work that much harder to get the blood circulated, which makes the pet tire easily, pant a lot and sometimes cough with exertion. All of which means they move less, which adds to the weight gain.

We recently got in an Australian shepherd whose owner was hospitalized with her own health issues. A male Aussie should weigh between 50-65 pounds, according to the breed standard. He came to us weighing 110 pounds. Seriously, this dog could hardly move. Just getting him to stand up was a major feat. It was incredibly sad. Years of this kind of abuse of his body left him with several chronic health issues, and he clearly was miserable. Trying to lose half of this dog’s body weight is a major project that would probably take a year or more.

With cats, you have to be very careful not to rush weight loss. If a cat stops eating for a few days, or eats too little, they can go into hepatic lipidosis, which is a severe liver disease. So any diet plan for a cat really needs to be done under a veterinarian’s guidance and with close monitoring. Dogs don’t have that issue and, for the most part, are less finicky eaters than cats. There are several foods on the market that are geared for weight loss – they have more fiber and less fat, so you can still feed enough for the animal to feel satiated with less calories.

We all know the formula – calories in need to equal calories out to maintain your weight. If either side of the equation changes, you get either weight gain or loss. So, another way to help a porky pooch (or cat) and yourself in the process is just to move more. It’s a bit harder in the winter when it gets dark so early, but just adding an additional 15-minute walk each day will burn some calories. Going to the dog park and letting your pet run and play can burn up even more (for the dog – less for you).

I can’t tell you the number of fat dogs we get through the shelter. When I mention this to the people redeeming their lost pets, I often hear “my vet said he’s fine.” Seriously, I know that veterinarians don’t want to lose their clients by insulting the weight of their pets, but they are doing a real disservice by not being honest and laying it on the line. The animal will not only die younger, the last few years will be spent in pain from arthritis and other ailments that are brought on by the additional weight.

Do yourself and your pets a favor by making it part of your new year’s resolution to both get in better shape in 2014. Your dog or cat will thank you for it in the long run.



A Home for the Holidays adoption special runs through the month of December. All dogs, cats and rabbits (over 4 months old) are available for only $25. Make a shelter animal’s dream come true and adopt some joy that will last all year (and a lifetime).

• Shop the Shelter for all the pet lovers on your list. Looking for some last minute gift ideas? We have earrings, pot holders, calendars, note pads and more available at the shelter, and a bonus is that all the funds directly supports the animals in our care.

• Like us on Facebook ( and help animals with the click of a mouse. Help lost animals get back home, promote our adoptable animals so they can find their forever homes, and stay current on our specials and events. Like us today.


Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at

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