Like the people who feed them, today’s pooches and pussy cats are getting paunchy. According to the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academies, 25 percent of cats and dogs in the Western world are now overweight. The reason? By sharing human food and other treats, owners are literally killing their pets with kindness, since overweight animals are at the same increased risk for health problems as humans.
To assist pet owners in determining proper feeding amounts, the council recently released a 500-page report entitled Nutrient Requirements of Cats and Dogs, available online at http://dels .nas.edu/banr/petdoor.html (a hardbound version will be available in early 2004). The report says that owners should be able to feel the ribs of a healthy dog and the animal should have a discernable waist without fat deposits. A cat should have no heavy fat deposits on the back, face or limbs, and its abdomen should not be rounded.
The online report offers suggestions on determining if your pet is overweight, and if it is, for losing those pounds. Advice includes cutting back on feeding amounts, eliminating table scraps and offering high-fiber foods.