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Pet Health


The Health Risks Of Having An Overweight Pet

<sup>(Originally published Sept. 9, 2017)</sup> Americans are not the only ones whose waistlines are expanding. Our pets are getting bigger,…

<sup>(Originally published Sept. 9, 2017)</sup>

Americans are not the only ones whose waistlines are expanding. Our pets are getting bigger, too. “In 20 years, I have watched pets get supersized in front of my eyes!” says Ernie Ward, D.V.M., author of “Chow Hounds: Why Our Dogs Are Getting Fatter,” and founder of the APOP (Association for Pet Obesity Prevention). The fifth annual veterinary survey conducted by the APOP found that 53% of adult dogs and 55% of cats are overweight or obese as determined by their veterinarian. That means that HALF of all the cats and dogs in U.S. households are overweight!

The reasons our pets are packing on the pounds are not that different from the reasons that we are. Just as we are eating larger portions and more snacks than a generation ago, so are our pets. Because our lives are so busy, we are less likely to get the exercise we need, too.

Obesity can slash a pet’s life expectancy and cause them serious health problems. Orthopedic surgeon and APOP Board Member, Dr. Steve Budsberg states that, “The prevention of obesity needs to be at the forefront of all discussions people have about the health of their pet with their veterinarian. The body of evidence that shows the negative impact of obesity on all the body’s systems is overwhelming. As an orthopedic surgeon, I see on a daily basis the effects of obesity on dogs and cats with osteoarthritis. It is very frustrating to see how much pain and discomfort excess weight has on my patients. Veterinarians and owners have the ability to stop obesity in our pets. No animal goes to the refrigerator or pantry and helps itself. We enable our pets to get fat!”

Primary Risks Of An Overweight Pet

* Osteoarthritis
* Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes
* High Blood Pressure
* Heart and Respiratory Disease
* Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injury
* Kidney Disease
* Many forms of Cancer
* Decreased life expectancy (up to 2.5 years)

“Just as disturbing,” says Dr. Ward, “is that an inactive pet is more likely to become depressed or anxious.”

Too Many Treats Lead To An Overweight Pet

Treats continue to be a major culprit for overweight pets. One source found that 93% of all dog and cat owners gave them commercial treats. The American Kennel Club (ACA) follows the 10 percent rule; treats should not make up more than 10 percent of your pet’s diet. “Treats are the silent saboteur of slimming down,” remarks Dr. Ward. “Those tiny treats are often hiding a significant number of calories.” In his book, Dr. Ward reveals the following:

* A premium pig ear fed to a 40-pound dog is the equivalent of an adult human drinking six 12-ounce Coke Classics.
* A typical dog biscuit fed to a 20-pound dog is the equivalent of an average adult human eating two Keebler E.L. Fudge Double Stuffed Sandwich Cookies.
* One Purina Busy Bone, size small/medium fed to a 40-pound dog is similar to an adult eating four McDonald’s Egg McMuffins.
* One Milk-Bone Large Dog Biscuit fed to a 60-pound dog is the same as an adult eating a Snickers Bar.
* 1/2 Tablespoon of Jif Creamy Peanut Butter fed to a 40-pound dog is the same as an adult eating one McDonald’s Sausage Patty.
* One McDonald’s Cheeseburger eaten by a 60-pound dog is similar to an adult munching on two Taco Bell Supremes and one 20-ounce Coke!

Take a look at your four-legged friend. If you can’t see your pet’s waist, that’s a sure sign in a pet’s world that they could be obese. A “little overweight” is when you can’t see or feel your pet’s ribcage.

How To Help Manage Your Overweight Pet

We all want our furry friends to live long and wonderful lives. What can you do to help your overweight pet lose a few pounds?

1) Consult your veterinarian. This should always be your first step. Your vet can advise you of the ideal weight for your dog or cat and come up with a plan for getting him back on track. Your Veterinarian can also make you aware of any potential health concerns.
2) Change to a weight management pet food. A reduced-calorie and reduced-fat food can help your pet get back to a healthy weight, while still providing the energy and nutrients he requires. Your vet may also recommend a reduced portion of your pet’s current food, perhaps supplementing with fresh vegetables. The key is to remain consistent with their diet. No sneaking treats or food from the table, no matter how many sad faces they give you.
3) Exercise. It is important to slowly increase your pet’s exercise routine. Start with short sessions, and gradually add more time and greater intensity. Your vet can tell you what your pet can safely handle. A great way to add some exercise to your dog’s day is to bring them to Dog Day Care at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts to play instead of letting them lay around the house while you’re working.
4) Cut back on treats. If you would like to give your pet a special reward, find healthier alternatives. Dr. Ward suggests offering single-ingredient rewards or fresh vegetables, such as baby carrots, string beans, broccoli, or other crunchy vegetables.
5) Be strong. Dogs are masters at manipulation, giving us that destitute look in front of the food bowl. It is important to recognize that they are not really hungry. The more you reward that behavior, the more they will continue it. Find out how much food your dog or cat should be fed and stick to it — no matter how forlorn they seem. Remember, it is in their best interest.
6) Make it a family affair. Everyone in the household needs to be on board with helping your pet lose weight. If you have children, be sure to explain to them the importance of helping your pet with their new weight loss control. Your pet will live a longer, happier life because of it.

Need Help With Your Pet’s Weight?

While your dog is visiting Holiday Barn Pet Resorts for the day or for an extended period of time, let our pack know that you are trying to help them lose weight. We will make sure to limit or eliminate treats, and feed only the required amount of food you advise. Also, we can add additional walks and play times to their stay to keep them active. Call to schedule your pet’s stay today! For our Glen Allen location, call 804-672-2200, and for our Midlothian location, call 804-794-5400.

*All figures are from the 2011 Association for Pet Obesity Prevention study. For more information or to view the study, go to

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