Pet obesity is a growing problem in the United States, just like the obesity epidemic in humans.
Pet obesity is a growing problem in the United States, just like the obesity epidemic in humans. Our pets face challenges with their health due to the extra weight gain. In the United States about 50 to 60 percent of dogs and cats are overweight. But isn’t it cute for our canine and feline friends to have a few extra pounds? What’s the big deal, you might ask?
Obesity in pets is linked to a number of devastating diseases that reduce quality and quantity of life, including arthritis and other joint diseases, heart disease, breathing and airway diseases, diabetes mellitus, pain, and even cancer. The care and medical bills for overweight pets are more than 17 percent higher than pets at an ideal body weight. Pets also live about two years longer if maintained at a normal body weight.
Step One: Recognize the Problem
Part of the problem is knowing what obesity looks like in pets. Many people do not realize that their pets are overweight. Recognizing the problem is the first step to solving it. Many people are under the false impression that certain breeds should weigh a certain amount or that their dog should be 100 pounds because his/her parent weighed that amount. However, this is not always the case and can cause owners to overfeed pets to achieve a certain weight that may not be healthy for them. Obesity is more than just weight. It is based on something called a body condition score that takes into account your pet’s frame when determining if they are overweight. The problem can be hard to recognize on your own, so make sure you ask your vet at your next appointment.
Step Two: Pay Attention to Diet
There are many diets that are aimed at helping pets lose weight. Over-the-counter diets can help some pets, but pets with severe obesity need to use a prescription diet made for weight loss and recommended by their veterinarian. While exercise is important for overall health for humans and pets, the major contributor for weight gain in pets is the number of calories they are taking in every day. Your pet deserves your attention and love more than extra food or treats.
Every extra calorie we give to our pets contributes to weight gain and obesity. We may think that the small piece of cheese is no big deal, but to a pet that is a large amount of unnecessary calories. Don’t be discouraged, it may not be easy to get your pet to lose weight, but it is vital to living a long, healthy life. As alternatives to giving treats, you can take your pup for a walk or play fetch. You can even play fetch with your cat or use a laser pointer to get them up and moving. Remember that the most important care you can give to your pet is getting them and keeping them at a healthy body weight.
Dr. Nichole Crainick joined Lake Emma Animal Hospital in 2014 and has a special interest in canine and feline internal medicine, especially gastrointestinal and endocrine diseases and ultrasound. She has an Australian Shepherd named Lily (pictured here) and two cats, Sterling and Troy.
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