Why Are Most Dogs and Cats Obese Now?

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According to statistics more than half of dogs and cats are obese.

Pet Obesity Prevention: An Estimated 54% of Dogs and Cats in the United States are Overweight or Obese

The advice pet owners receive sounds familiar:

Your dog must eat less – and exercise more

The irony is almost blatant as the prevalence of human obesity has also more than doubled between 1980 and 2014. The advice to pet owners correspond to the useless advice that people too are receiving: eat less, run more.

Both people and pets have received such advice while they’ve gotten heavier and heavier. Apparently the advice does not work very well for humans, which has been confirmed in studies. Calorie-fundamentalistic advice is likely just as ineffective for pets.

One tip is of course to start instead to give the pets what they are genetically designed to eat. The same thing works well on their owners.

What does your pet eat?

More

Cats and Dogs Getting Fatter and Fatter

Extreme Increase of Diabetes in Cats

All on food for animals

36 comments

Top comment

  1. Dryfoodkillscats
    Thanks for bringing up this topic.

    Our cats get a biologically appropriate raw diet: meat, chicken liver, chicken hearts, egg yolks, and some supplements (taurine, calcium, some vitamins), plus cream and butter as treats.

    We have been feeding them a raw diet from day one (sort of a shock therapy, both of them used to eat kibble at the shelter).

    The result: shiny, smooth coats, no more smelly poop.

    Caution: Even a raw fed cat may become overweight, one has to consider that most cats are spayed or neutered. We feed about 2 percent of bodyweight/day/cat. Skinny cats and of course kittens may need much more.

    But Diabetes in raw fed cats is unheard of, even if they are on the portly side.

    Kibble is the worst because it is so high in carbs and low in moisture. Some manufacturers sell dry "prescription diets" for diabetic cats, what madness.

    Recommended reading: http://www.catinfo.org (by US veterinarian Lisa Pierson), scroll down to the pictures of massively obese kibble-fed cats and to Obie, the poor tom with that painful urethral obstruction.

    Also very recommendable: http://www.feline-nutrition.org

    Keep up the good work!

    Read more →

All comments

  1. Michael
    "One tip is of course to start instead to give the pets what they are genetically designed to eat."

    Exactly. And that means mostly raw meat and including offal.

    I would suggest, however, that domestic animals, like humans, are also exposed to disrupted sleep and light-pollution, and this likely plays a part, too. It's been shown that exposing healthy normal-weight students to sleep-deprivation without changing their diet at all is enough to make them insulin resistant.

    Even EMF fields could be playing a part.

    Interestingly, foxhounds in kennels in Victorian times did get given some kind of mash as part of their diet. Presumably, it didn't make them obese, but I'd not recommend it, of course.

  2. Adrian
    Yes, but what are pets designed to eat? You don't mention it Andreas on your article...
    Reply: #10
  3. Scott
    Sports Medicine Professor and LCHF expert Tim Noakes says a cat needs one mouse each day. Not sure about dogs. It might be cheaper breeding mice than buying cat food.
  4. dividebytube
    We feed our two cats grain-free cat food. It seems to work as both of them are rather trim considering they spend 95% of their time dozing, sleeping, napping, resting, or just sitting around.
  5. Lorraine
    I switched our dogs to grain-free food about a year into our switch to keto. We sometimes put coconut oil, bacon grease, or bone broth on it as well. They also get bites of our food and pre-wash our dishes :)

    They also get lots of exercise, which has health benefits beyond weight, as well as using up their energy.

  6. Heather
    We feed our two cats grain-free food. They are both a healthy weight and have the softest coats of fur.
  7. Book Fan
    I've heard about diabetes in cats, but never paid attention, until a few people in a forum I read mentioned normalizing blood glucose and eliminating their cats' need for insulin by feeding them a low-carb cat food. I hadn't realized that pet foods today are full of carbs, but looking at some labels was eye-opening.

    By chance, the canned food we have been using for our 16-year old cat is one of the low-carb ones (in the US, Fancy Feast "Classic" line). Her blood sugar has always been good when she is checked at the vet.

  8. Dryfoodkillscats
    Thanks for bringing up this topic.

    Our cats get a biologically appropriate raw diet: meat, chicken liver, chicken hearts, egg yolks, and some supplements (taurine, calcium, some vitamins), plus cream and butter as treats.

    We have been feeding them a raw diet from day one (sort of a shock therapy, both of them used to eat kibble at the shelter).

    The result: shiny, smooth coats, no more smelly poop.

    Caution: Even a raw fed cat may become overweight, one has to consider that most cats are spayed or neutered. We feed about 2 percent of bodyweight/day/cat. Skinny cats and of course kittens may need much more.

    But Diabetes in raw fed cats is unheard of, even if they are on the portly side.

    Kibble is the worst because it is so high in carbs and low in moisture. Some manufacturers sell dry "prescription diets" for diabetic cats, what madness.

    Recommended reading: http://www.catinfo.org (by US veterinarian Lisa Pierson), scroll down to the pictures of massively obese kibble-fed cats and to Obie, the poor tom with that painful urethral obstruction.

    Also very recommendable: http://www.feline-nutrition.org

    Keep up the good work!

  9. Stef
    I give my dog either chicken breast or chicken thighs, occasionally liver (all cooked) and some peas along with the meal. As treats I give her a piece of raw veggie, or cheese once in a while. I also like to give her a boiled egg once or twice a week.
    Reply: #37
  10. Jeb
    There are only 3 types:

    Carnivores (Such as K9 teeth): Animal diet - and even primarily organs. Lions and tigers go for the gut first, and eat muscle after if they are still hungry.

    Herbivores: Plant eaters, who then get eaten by Carnivores. This is what is referred to as Grass Fed beef. Cows were not meant to eat Corn, or produce Cows Milk for human consumption.

    Omnivores: Humans, who eat anything.

    In otherwords.. Cats and Dogs are Carnivors and were meant to eat living animals. Thats why cats "Play with their Food" before eating it.

  11. Zepp
    Its becuse there owners are obese, lazy and eats to much instead of taking there pets for a swift walk several times a day! ;)

    Well joking.. its the same reason that humans get obese and sick.. junkfood and an unnatural living!

    Dogs are domesticited wolfs, they are mostly carniovurus, but one thing that there bread have done, they tolerate a litle more carbs then wolfs.. but can live of a totaly carniovurus diet!

    Cats on the other hand are not that different frome vild cats in metabolic therms.. they are still carnivurus creatures, they have a bad insulin regulation and regulate there blood sugar mostly by gluconeogens.. they make there own glucose from amino acids!

    And there is a way to cure feline diabetes.. its to give them there natural food.. mice and small birds!

    However.. its a pain to feed mice for food, there are easyer and quite good good cat foods too.

    Some are expensive but if one have a healty cat there are better and worse cat foods in the store!

    "The Catkin’s Diet is a diet that gets rid of all carbohydrate foods, meaning most dry cat food. Your cat is a carnivore and should be eating a high protein low carb diet. A lot of the canned cat foods out there generally meet this requirement. When feeding your cat you should make sure to avoid all foods that contain corn starch and rice because they have a higher glycemic index. A lot of veterinarians recommend the cat food Purina DM but if it is too expensive or that your cat simply won’t eat it then the best alternative cat food would be Fancy Feast. These cat foods have a higher protein and fat and less carbohydrates."

    http://catkinsdiet.net/catkins-diet/

    Catkins is LCHF/Atkins for cats.. and then there is BARF altso for those that that do there own petfood!

  12. Murray
    Our dog (a 95-pound Rottie) thrives on a no-kibble diet. His staple is 100% ground beef burgers from Costco, cooked and served warm. In the morning feed, he also gets a couple of egg whites (I get the yolks--he is the dog, after all--but sometimes he gets whole eggs) and a strip of bacon fat. Sometimes bone broth with the burgers. Plenty of marrow bones and joints, pig ears, trotters and chicken feet (from the butcher). Lots of dried chicken breast as treats during walks, etc. He gets leftover meat often for variety (especially salmon and salmon skin, for omega 3), unless the meat was cooked with onion or garlic (which are evidently liver toxic to dogs). Once we gave him leftovers that had peas and small carrots mixed in. He took large gulps, and then spit out every pea and carrot. It was hilarious to watch.

    A huge advantage to a no-kibble diet is the backyard. His deposits disintegrate within a day or two. Many dog owners have some unpleasant cleaning to do when the snow melts in the spring, but our yard is always clear.

    We tried raw food but it always gave him diarrhea so we gave up on that.

    We tried no-grain, no-carb kibble but this always made him gain weight. I am skeptical of the processing and how it might denature the proteins. We only use kibble when he goes to a kennel while we are away on vacation.

    He is very energetic outside. I walk-run-sprint him every morning. We have a routine where if he charges past me at an all-out gallop I give him a treat, so he gets plenty of high-intensity exercise. (It has been fun with the winter ice because he skids out, although once he inadvertently took me out like a bowling pin.) He is quite athletic and charges all-out gallop up steep embankments chasing squirrels. He has never caught one but he revels in the chase.

    Other than annual check-ups, our vet bill has been zero since we got him 4-1/2 years ago.

    Reply: #35
  13. Murat
    Most dog food have about 50% carb. Dogs that eat it have their metabolism screwed up and some get really fat. Raw diet is the best.
  14. Vicente
    I wouldn't trust a guy that says one thing and its opposite.
  15. Brenda
    So I current have to cats, both are the same age 1 male 1 female. I have had other cats before; although this is the first time where I have a cat that appears to be overweight. He's not as big looking as some cats I've seen, but he sure feels heavy. The two cats I have are different breeds, names are Mittens and Sophia. Both are fed the same cat food; but Mittens is the bigger one and he eats more than Sophia. Not sure why that is, but he does and seems to be hungrier than Sophia does in a shorter time span. My first cat I had is the same type of cat as Mittens; matter of fact he looks just like him and his name also named Mittens but this one is bigger.
  16. Apicius
    I am happy to see this topic posted. When I did the switch to LCHF, I also changed the diet of my cats after realizing that the dry kibble I was feeding them was full of crap like corn, wheat, rice and so on. After making the switch to wet foods primarily of meat, offals, fish, eggs, rAbbit, foul, etc, they lost weight and became more satiated (seems like they don't meow as if protesting incessantly as they did before!)

    There are some interesting scientific articles that observe the feeding behaviour of domestic and feral cats. Feral cats give a clue as to what the fat and protein percentage should be in the diet. Here's an example study:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22005434

    Lots of studies done in race horses, too, where they do feeding studies comparing agriculturally produced grain feed versus pasture grass, and they also isolated which DNA corresponds to which optimum feed ratios. Here is an example:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24558100

    Amazing how the race horse nutritionists are smarter than the human nutritionists! What a fiasco!!

    Replies: #18, #25
  17. David
    I read somewhere(don't remember where) a couple of years ago that back in the first half of the last century when they bagan studying heart disease in humans they ruled using dogs for testing because dogs did not get heart disease. Now after decades of feeding dogs processed, grain-based food they suffer from similar rates of heart disease as humans. GO FIGURE!!
  18. Cindy C
    Thanks for those studies. Some horses, like some people, do not burn carbs well, and benefit from lower carb/high fat feed. Horses in general, cannot digest a high grain diet.

    https://www.smartpakequine.com/content/tying-up-horse

    http://www.oakhill-vets.com/equine-services/advice/tying-up-in-horses

    Most dogs like butter. Without taurine ( it is only in animal foods), cats will go blind. We also need taurine for our eyes and heart. Some dog breeds seem to need taurine, not being able to make it from other amino acids.

    http://blog.onlynaturalpet.com/2008/02/16/the-importance-of-taurine-f...

  19. Wheelingit
    exactly! Our pets eat a raw meat/bone/organ diet...what they were meant to eat if they were hunting in the wild. And our vets are always amazed at how shiny their coats are and how white their teeth. No problems with obesity or plaque here! Our cats were actually quite sick before we switched their diet. Getting back to a natural food resolved almost all their issues.

    Nina

  20. Tracy
    My 15 years old cat Whiskey was sick, overweight, had a poor appetite, behavioural problems, dementia symptoms, severely itchy face /scabs from scratching (was incorrectly told this was military dermatitis), fatty lump (was incorrectly told this was a hernia), UTI infections, no energy, lethargy.

    When I heard about the book Brain Grain it all clicked as to why my cat had dementia symptoms - CARBS!!! I removed all the dried cat food and wet cat food and gave her cooked prawns, which she LOVES!!!, and all her symptoms improved drastically. I have my cat back! :)

  21. Olivia
    Both my dogs are fed raw, minced meat, bones and offal - neither are overweight, and my vet says they are exceedingly healthy. Living next to a farm, they also eat whatever revolting things they find lying around, and enjoy catching and eating rabbits from around the garden and farm.
  22. kaylen
    My dogs eat orijen ( grain free kibble) + homemade bone broth, cod liver oil, bits of meat, fat, and cartilage leftover from broth making, and homemade chicken liver treats. I do think portion control is important for dogs.
  23. alan
    my cat is paleo. she eats heart (for taurine), meat, bones, eggs, liver. she comes with me sprinting in the woods. now that it's snowed she is a "snow-cat". some coconut oil on her fur makes her splendid.
  24. Daci
    One day,I looked at a can of hedgehog food..I was curious as to the contents.What was the first ingredient? Corn.
    Rabbits,gpigs and chinchillas have problems with being given pellets,which are loaded with things they did not evolve to eat,mainly grains and soy.Treats filled with sugar are aimed towards owners of these critters as well. So dogs and cats are not the only unfortunate critters fed a diet based on the food pyramid.
  25. Boundless
    re: Amazing how the race horse nutritionists are smarter than the human nutritionists!

    Well, the most money is made when the race horses are healthy, competitive, and live long enough to produce profitable offspring. They actually pay attention to results.

    People are the most profitable (to nutritionists and doctors) when they are sick. Plus, an actually healthy human diet violates all sorts of professional dogma (no offense to dogs intended).

    re: What a fiasco!!

    Yep. The pet food situation is massively more screwed up than the human food situation. Our last two cats (years before we went LCHF) died of diabetes complications. In addition to the gratuitous wheat in most pet food, and the destructively high carbs, never forget the promptly toxic Chinese melamine scandal of some years ago.

  26. Wenchypoo
    It doesn't help that many, many vets get kickbacks (similar to doctors and Big Pharma) for recommending particular brands of food, like Purina (most notorious), Science Diet (where's the science in THAT diet?), Iams, etc., and just about every brand of pet food out there is owned by some huge conglomerate whose better known for other products, such as Colgate and toothpaste, Unilever and soap, even Johnson & Johnson and furniture polish.

    I believe it was Jimmy Moore who said that dry pet food is only two ingredients away from dry cereal. And you wonder where all the carbs come from...

    I make my own pet food for my two cats--a little liver, a little egg yolk (both raw and grass-fed/pastured), some fish oil, some calcium carbonate, and BAM! It freezes well when put into either ice cube trays or muffin tins for later thawing and feeding.

    Replies: #27, #29
  27. erdoke
    You seem to mix up Johson & Johnson with SC Johnson. The former is not into pet food or furniture polish, rather selling medical devices, pharmaceuticals and baby cosmetics.
  28. Anne Robertson
    9 years ago when one of our two cats became obese and arthritic, we noticed that he was eating lots of the dried food we fed them and very little of the wet food. Not then knowing about LC/HF, we just thought he was greedy and removed the dried food as that was what he was eating preferentially. He slimmed down to be like his brother, who never liked the dried food. They are now almost 14 years old and very fit and healthy. We also have dogs. We used to feed them canned food with a dried mixer, but we cut out the mixer 6 years ago when we went LC/HF ourselves. Our oldest dog, a labrador/golden retriever will be 14 in April and she's in excellent health. She's a little weaker than she used to be in the hind quarters, but she still runs and gets up and down the stairs with no difficulty. The old dog is a retired guide dog and from the start, I refused to feed her on the dried dog food recommended by the guide dog school. My working guide dog, a black labrador who just turned 4, was overweight and had some muscular problems when I got her in August 2013. After a few months on the canned dog food, a local supermarket's own brand which is low in carbs, she was slim and glossy and the muscular problems were gone. When we still lived in England, an old vet once told us that he always recommended the cheapest canned dog food to cure digestive problems, as it was the closest thing to a wild dog's natural diet. My previous guide dogs, both black labradors, lived to the age of 15 and we had one pet dog reach 16, then to die peacefully in her sleep. My retired guide dog has never had to be treated for any illness by the vet since I got her when she was 17 months old. I've been telling the staff at the Paris guide dog school that feeding the dogs on dried food is causing all the health problems they're experiencing, and they're at long last starting to listen to me as they no longer try to insist on guide dogs being fed dried food and they recommend a meaty bone once a week. It's a start, anyway.
  29. Apicius
    My vet tried to get me to buy the canned food brand he sold in his practice. He said it was the best thing I could do for my pets. I said "no!" And showed him why - the fourth ingredient listed was "gluten". His face went red. Not sure he ever noticed that before I pointed it out.
  30. GuardNo1
    Good subject. If carbs aren't very good for us, try being a carnivore! Cats are really not well-served by foodstuffs like Whiskas and Go Cat that have a low meat content.

    I shop at Zooplus or Bitiba (same company), and buy my two cats Nutrivet biscuits, which is 80% meat, and Cosma wet food (which is about 50:50 meat and water, 1% rice, and some potassium chloride). This doesn't cost any more than buying Whiskas and GoCat from the supermarket, indeed it costs less as being carb-free, the cats only need to eat 2-3 times a day, rather than seemingly constantly!

    Other good brands of dry food are Applaws (good price) or Arcana/Orijen (more expensive and more food miles). For wet food, the ingredients of Bozita look very good, but my two cats are not keen on most flavours of it (and will barely touch many). Cosma Thai has lots of tasty fish-based recipes, but while I love my cats I don't think the ocean really needs the extra burden of feeding the world's cats. I therefore buy original Chicken flavour Cosma, which they love. If they had Rabbit or red meat options I'd buy those too.

    One of the cats in particular was getting very fat, and self-harming by pulling his fur out on the old diet. A combination of better food and reduced stress in the household has left him looking great and seemingly very content.

    Both cats supplement their diets with mice, probably once every week or two, as far as I can tell. They're crap at catching birds, which is good for the local feathered population.

  31. Leone
    I have been feeding my five rat terriers a raw diet for thirteen years. The oldest two are fourteen this year ranging down to two years. I weigh their food each day and have done a LOT of research on feeding a raw diet. They are healthy and I can feel all their ribs though I can't see them. Over the years they have participated in agility and the youngest is debuting in competitive obedience this May. They all have fantastic coats and energy. I'm not sure why it took so long for me to convert my own diet to the LCHF way of eating!
  32. Clement
    I feed my dogs a subset of what humans eat. I remove the obvious items like garlic, onions, etc. and feed them meat, eggs, butter, cream, cooked greens and fruit for treats. On rare occasions they will get rice, bread or sweets as we do.

    They eat absolutely nothing from the pet store or pet food aisle. Processed human-quality food is alarming enough.

    The 10 year old still does puppy zooms even though she weighs nearly 70 lbs.

    They also 'fast' for most of the day and get small meals within an 8 hour window. They are lean and have not had any significant health issues.

  33. Niki
    I am a carnivor and I eat high fat diet, and my blood test results are great. My dog had a weight problem, as I did too. So when I got results from LCHF I decided to try it on the dog. Her coat was dull, her teeth had issues, and she was depressed. She gets eggs, grass fed cooked meat, sardines, and whatever other food I eat. She has lost all the weight she needed to lose, and she bounces around like a puppy again, at 10 years old. Her coat shines. Her teeth are excellent. She even gets cheese. Her stools are healthy. We add a little bit of veggies, the same we add to our food, on the basis that dogs spent the last few thousand years with humans, and before WWI a, they got whatever the humans ate, with the exception of onions. Btw, she is literally on the LCHF diet. We cut all oils that are vegetable and low omega 3, so she is off omega 6 too. She gets lots of oil, including butter.she has always been a foody, and yet before, she was begging for food all the time. Not so anymore. Btw, we grow all our own veggies, so we have removed all pesticides from ours and her diet. As a scientist, I ensure the soil goes beyond present standards of nutrition, and balance the nutrients. The garden is watered without chlorine from tested well water. Next step, we will raise all our own chickens and produce all our own eggs
  34. 1 comment removed
  35. Landa
    I switched my Australian shepherd to a meat diet similar to what you are doing for your Rottie; however, I really don't know if I'm feeding him enough. Do you know of a website that will help me with the portions? Thank you.
  36. Niki
    Hello Landa,

    The long and the short is, sorry, no. I judge the proportions based on the dog, the stool, the cost, the teeth, the weight and what we eat.

    Sincerely,

    Niki

  37. Desi
    Hi Stef,
    I don't understand why you cook it.
    Dogs are meant to eat Raw food it massages their gums & the process of pulling the meat apart helps to clean their teeth & exercise their jaws.
    We feed our 7 year old English Staffy raw Chicken Necks, Raw Beef or Lamb Off cuts & Offal.

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