Why the Jump in Pet Obesity?
It has become more commonplace to treat our pets as members of the family. While this can be mutually beneficial emotionally, care must be taken not to give our pets human-sized portions, especially not of human foods. Perhaps you sneak your dog lunch meat, cheese, or bread while you're making your sandwich. One slice of bread for your dog is equivalent to giving a human a cheeseburger. Giving your cat a slice of cheese is like giving a human four chocolate bars. And that saucer of milk for kitty? That equals four cheeseburgers! It's easy to see how treats can lead to obesity.
There are emotional components that can increase obesity in pets. For instance, if you've been out working all day, perhaps you feel guilty for leaving your pet alone and offer treats to assuage that guilt. Food is also a point of bonding for humans, associated with good feelings. It's natural to let that translate to our pets, but we need to realize that can be dangerous since our pets are small, and little bits of food kindness translates to a large calorie load for animals.
What does fit look like?
There are certain areas of the country that people are generally heavier, and overweight begins to look normal after awhile. The same is true for pets. Their paunch and roundness gradually creeps up on you. That's why it's important to keep track of your dog or cat's weight at the veterinarian's. But these simple guidelines can help. For dogs, the abdomen should be tucked up when viewed from the side, and a waist should be visible when viewed from above. Cats should should be sleek, able to move easily and gracefully.
The Dangers of Excess Weight
We all know the dangers of obesity in humans... increased risk for heart disease, joint pain, and diabetes, just to name a few. These are also being seen in overweight pets, as well as breathing disorders, increased risk for osteoarthritis, heat intolerance, etc. However, in animals, this increased strain on the various body systems can decrease your pet's life by an average of 1-2 years. So realizing the problem and then acting on it is quite important.
What can be done?
Start moving! For cats this can be the introduction of a scheduled playtime or an additional playmate. Our first cat was starting to get a little lazy. We introduced another cat, and that did wonders for her figure and mood! For dogs, this means getting out there and walking them, which is good for you too! Vigorous play is also recommended.
Food is usually the core issue of pet obesity. This responsibility lies squarely with the pet owner. Feeding a sensible prepared diet is like having a personal nutritionist help you, so buy a high-quality food and reduce quantities of snacks. Table scraps should be omitted for overweight pets. Pets will generally eat what is placed in front of them. The food drive is quite strong, and they are quite good at training us to feed them on demand! Be stronger than the beggars! They will get over it!
Form a working plan with your vet including regular weight checks and blood work to ensure there isn't an underlying medical condition causing weight gain such as hypothyroidism. Your vet will help you determine your dog's ideal weight and diet.
Your dog or cat will appreciate having joint relief and more energy for doing what comes naturally! Work to reach your goals together and you'll both be feeling better!
Photo by Dan Perry.