It’s a new year and some of us would like to shed a few excess pounds as part of our new year resolutions. That’s a great idea…for you and very possibly, your pet!
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, DVM, 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 veterinary. That means that HALF of all the cats and dogs in US households are too fat!
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 the get 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 themselves. We enable our pets to get fat!”
Primary Risks of Excess Weight in Pets
* 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.
Treats continue to be a major contributor to weight gain in pets. An online poll found that 93% of all dog and cat owners gave commercial treats, with 26% reporting they gave their pet treats three or more times a day. “Treats are the silent saboteur of slimming down.” remarks Dr. Ward. “Those tiny treats are often hiding a significant amount of calories.” In his book, Chow Hounds: Why our Dogs are getting Fatter, 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 EL Fudge Double Stuffed Sandwich Cookies.
* 1 Purina Busy Bone, size small/medium fed to a 40-pound dog is similar to an adult eating 4 McDonald’s Egg McMuffins.
* 1 Milk-Bones Large Dog Biscuit fed to a 60-pound dog is the same as an adult eating a Snicker’s Bar.
* 1/2 Tablespoon of Jif Creamy Peanut Butter fed to a 40-pound dog is the same as an adult eating 1 McDonald’s Sausage Patty.
* 1 McDonald’s Cheeseburger eaten by a 60-pound dog is similar to an adult munching on 2 Taco Bell Supremes and 1 20-ounce coke!
Take a look at your four legged friend. If you can’t see your dog’s waist, that’s a sure sign in a dog’s world that he/she could be obese. A “little overweight” is when you can’t see the rib cage…or “feel” the rib cage in a furry dog.
We all want to keep our furry friends as long as possible. What can you do if your dog or cat needs to lose weight?
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. He 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 instead recommend a reduced portion of your current food, perhaps supplementing with fresh vegetables.
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 dog can safely handle.
4) Cut back on Treats! If you would like to give your dog 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 have mastered that sad look in front of the food bowl, but it is important to recognize that they are not really hungry. The more you reward that behavior, the more he will continue it. Find out how much food your dog or cat should be fed and stick to it – no matter how forlorn your dog seems. Remember, it’s in his best interest.
6) Make it a Family Affair. Just like working with a problem behavior, everyone in the household needs to do their part. If you have children, be sure to explain to them the importance of helping your pet with his new weight loss control. Your pet will live a longer, happier life because of it!
*All figures 2011 Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. For more information or to view the study, go to www.petobesityprevention.org.