Obesity is an early death sentence for your cavalier. So don't give in to all those pleading looks for extra treats! In general this is also NOT a breed that should ever be allowed to self feed from food left out all day. Guess what breed is depicted on the "lite food" offering from one of the major pet food manufacturers in Europe? Yes, a cavalier!!!

This is a breed in which most individuals will eventually acquire heart disease -- MVD, or mitral valve disease, with 50% of cavaliers having a murmur by age 5, and nearly 100% by age 10 (see the Health Issues faqs). Obesity adds significantly to how hard the heart works, which means the mitral valve is used more frequently and will degenerate and give out sooner. In addition, obesity puts pressure on joints, bringing on painful arthritis, and is known to be directly linked to the onset of other health problems. You want your cavalier around as long as possible, don't you? Of course you do. Be sure to keep your dog fit and healthy with daily exercise and appropriate amounts of food.

In general you should be able to see a distinct waist on your cavalier, when viewed from above (though note that puppies can be more roly poly -- or sometimes, a bit thin -- and, fed correctly, they will come out just right as they grow into adults.

Here's several ways to check for fitness vs. fatness:

http://www.petstages.com/default2.asp

For an excellent guide on feeding a cavalier, and some very helpful pictures of real cavalier waists shown from above, see:

http://www.roycroftcavaliers.com/manualfeeding.htm

For healthy treats, look to fruits and vegetables. Yes, dogs will eat and enjoy them -- they are not pure carnivores and recent studies have shown that fruits and veggies are as healthy for dogs as they are for their owners. While dogs cannot always digest the cellulose in them, fruit and veg have lots of beneficial fibre good for their digestive tract and keeping anal glands clear. To feed fruit and veg during a regular meal, grate it finely (a parmesan style grater is good), pulp it in a juicer, or feed cooked veg (these steps make the veg more digestible and of greater nutritional value to your cavalier). Mine will even eat cooked cabbage!

Some good fruit and veggie treats include:

* mini carrots or cut a big carrot down. Most dogs *love* carrots. If yours doesn't, try dipping it in a bit of chicken or beef broth to get them started
* apple, pear, banana slices (many dogs really love banana)
* berries
* bell pepper slices -- a big favourite in my house

Reach for these rather than the dog biscuits.

Some veggies and fruits can be dangerous, among them: onions, grapes and raisins (can be very toxic), macademia nuts, persimmons, apple, peach and other fruit pips/stones/seeds (not the fruits themselves)

Here's a full list of toxic items: http://www.peteducation.com/article....articleid=1030

To inspire you, here's an article on why pudgy pets are bad!

Pudgy pets: Group warns pets are overweight

By Randolph E. Schmid
The Associated Press

September 8, 2003

WASHINGTON -- The old wives' tale holds that people start to look like their pets. Turns out it's the other way around: America's pets are starting to look like Americans -- overweight.

Whether it's round hounds or corpulent cats, as many as one-fourth of cats and dogs in the Western world are overweight, according to a the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academies.

It's the council's first update since 1986 of its "Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats" and, while aimed at veterinarians, pet food makers and scientists, the 500-page report also contains useful pointers for people with pets.

Kathryn Michel, a veterinary nutritionist at the University of Pennsylvania, said she has noted more overweight pets in recent years, particularly cats, and the problem seems to occur at younger ages than in the past.

"A big problem that people don't always recognize," she said, is that pets "are members of our families, we show them affection, and one way is by sharing food and giving treats."

People don't have to ignore those hopeful eyes looking up, she says, just be careful. A piece of a biscuit will help bond with the animal just as much as the whole biscuit.

Like people, obese pets have a greater risk of developing such diseases as diabetes, heart disease and other health problems, said Donald C. Beitz, chairman of the committee that prepared the report.

Beitz, a professor of animal science at Iowa State University, said the new study adds a chapter on physical activity for pets and points out that the council has established a Web site for pet owners to learn more about nutrition for their animals, how to determine if they are overweight and suggestions for helping them lose weight.

The Web site can be accessed at http://national-academies.org/petdoor.

"Obesity is estimated to occur in 25 percent of dogs and cats in Westernized societies," the report states, noting that obesity increases with the age of the pet and occurs more frequently in neutered animals.

Cats, the report notes, are descended from carnivores, and their digestive system is designed for absorbing nutrients from animal-based proteins and fats.

A cat should not be fed a vegetarian diet because it could result in harmful deficiencies of certain amino acids, fatty acids and vitamins, the report says.

While dogs prefer animal-based food, they can survive on vegetarian diets as long as they receive sufficient protein and other nutrients, the report adds.

Cats like to snack, the report found, while dogs are gorgers.

In tests where animals were allowed to eat whenever they wanted, cats ate smaller meals, more often, than dogs.

Cats ate 12 to 20 meals, spread out through day and night, while dogs ate seven or eight times, mostly in daytime.

The report stresses that fresh water always should be available to dogs, especially during exercise, to prevent overheating.

It's fine to feed an adult dog just one or two times a day, but puppies need to eat two to three daily meals. Puppies, kittens and lactating dogs and cats need more daily calories, as may pets that are sick or injured.

Cats don't drink as much water as dogs, perhaps because cats evolved as desert animals. Given a choice, however, they usually will choose moist over dry food. The weak thirst of cats puts them at higher risk for urinary tract stones.

The report says owners should be able to feel the ribs of a healthy dog, and it should have a discernible waist without fat deposits. However, if the ribs and pelvic bones can be seen, it's too thin.

If a cat looks overweight, it is, the report says. There should be no heavy fat deposits on the back, face or limbs or a rounding of the abdomen.

Help them trim down by offering less of their usual food, cutting back on or eliminating table scraps. Also, within limits, offer foods with more fiber.