Ollie Turner has a problem that affects tens of millions of Americans — a sagging, furry waist.
The mixed breed animal shelter adoptee can barely squeeze onto the windowsill these days. He is among the estimated 47 million cats and 41 million dogs classified as weighing too much — 58 percent of the cat population and 53 percent of dogs.
Like any cat worth its weight, Ollie shows no inclination whatsoever of caring. But he should.
“There’s the old adage that skinny pets live longer,” said Dr. Richard D. Henderson, medical director of the Galveston Veterinary Clinic. “The lean pet on average is going to live two years longer than the one that has mild-to-moderate weight problems.”
The extra pounds can make for daily troubles.
“Excessive weight can lead to diabetes mellitus, overheating during our hot summer days, heart disease and stress on the joints resulting in arthritis, all of which are health concerns,” said Dr. Cynthia Hoobler, president of the Galveston County Veterinary Medical Society.
“It is important for the owner to help maintain their pet’s overall health by keeping the pet trim and healthy.”
Amber Adams, animal services manager of the Galveston County Animal Resource Center, points to a sadly familiar back story to this epidemic.
“The reason pets become overweight is the same for humans — too much food and lack of exercise,” she said.
“Most pet owners overfeed their pets, thinking that food is love. Minimizing the number of treats per day is usually harder on the owner than the pet.”
Henderson said he has seen a fair share of too-plump pets in his 33 years as a vet. But he has really seen an increase in fat cats since a trend toward keeping the pets indoors and feeding them high-carbohydrate dry meals.
“Carbohydrates are easily converted to fat,” he said. “Combine that with a sedentary lifestyle and obese cats and diabetic cats have become an epidemic in the last 20 years in the United States.”
The solution, at least for cats, might be canned foods, the kind without sauces.
“They’re stinky and gross, but they’re high in protein, high in moisture and for an overweight cat, they work better than dry,” Henderson said. “We call it the ‘Catkins Diet’ — a high-protein diet like Atkins for people.”
For obese pets, a campaign coordinated by a veterinarian would be most effective, both Henderson and Hoobler said. More severe cases might need prescription foods that activate the pet’s metabolism to burn excess body fat.
For less severe cases, exercise and controlled portions could do the trick.
“I think sometimes we have to train ourselves not to indulge our pets,” Henderson said.
“Our pets are going to love us no matter if we give them one treat a day or 20. Hand your dog an apple slice instead of a milk bone.”
As for Ollie, his owners are switching to high-protein, healthy but stinky canned cat food for the hefty feline.
Ollie has no comment.