Pet Obesity- Awareness and Prevention
Obesity is a huge issue with today’s pets, and it continues to grow! According to the association for pet obesity and prevention, an estimated 58% of cats and 54% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese.
Why are pets overweight or obese?
The blame partially lies with pet food manufacturers themselves. Many of the bigger names out there today, many of the ones claiming to provide everything your pet needs, a balanced diet; many of them in fact produce rather low quality food. These cheaper brands tend to ‘cut corners’ in order to produce as much product as possible at the lowest possible cost to them.
Well, because it is cheap to produce and easy to grow in mass quantities, many of these larger names resort to using corn or corn based substitutes, and other, various forms of plant protein, as ‘filler’ in their foods.
Whereas many of these brands may in fact provide enough protein for your pet, that doesn’t necessarily mean they provide ‘The Right Kind’ of protein. In other words, the correct mixture of amino acids. Most wild dogs (Wolves) and cats originally derived their diets almost completely from animal based food sources; they haven’t evolved to thrive off of plant based proteins well.
- Check the first three ingredients on the back of your pet’s food container. If any on them are ‘corn’ anything, there is a good chance you are providing a cheaply made pet food; consider switching.
- There is a difference between ‘Enough Protein’ and ‘The Right Kind of Protein’.
Why is being overweight or obese bad for my pet?
An unhealthy weight can lead to a wealth of secondary health complications!
As pets age (especially overweight pets), their joints are prone to become arthritic. In turn, the more weight these arthritic joints are forced to support, the more uncomfortable it is for the animal. Some breeds, like the Golden Retriever, are especially prone to develop complications such as these.
Didn’t think animals can become diabetic? Think again! Not only is it possible, but it is actually one of the most common complications of obesity.
Not only can they develop diabetes from an improper sugar intake, it is especially dangerous (yes, it can be deadly) to animals because they are not capable to telling us how they are feeling.
What is diabetes? Well, as more and more sugar is consumed, the body’s pancreas must produce excess amounts of insulin in order to maintain a balance in blood- glucose levels (allow cells to consume the sugar). As with any organ, if the Pancreas is overworked for too long, it can begin to malfunction- even fail.
Poor diet can often cause an increase in blood pressure (hypertension), even leading to heart disease. Again, if the heart must endure an increased workload, pumping additional blood through smaller vessels to excess tissues…
Other Possible Complications
- Difficulty Breathing
- Decreased Stamina
- Decreased Liver Function
- Decreased Immune Function
- Skin & Hair/Coat Problems
- Reproductive Issues
- Increased Risk of Cancer
- Decreased Quality of Life
The list goes on. Yes, all of these are possible complications; in the end, a dog or cat’s physiology is actually very similar to that of a human’s. Thus, almost any complication of poor nutrition for us humans is just as possible for these animals to develop.
How can I tell if my pet is overweight or obese?
First of all, organizations such as the American Kennel Club have set ideal ‘breed standards’ for just about every single breed of both dogs and cats in existence; the best possible weight for these animals. It would probably take less than a minute to do a quick internet search for your pet’s ideal weight, or ‘breed standard’ weight.
Ask Your Veterinarian
This is a very simple course, and ironically, all too often overlooked. Consult your vet- a simple phone call will do!
Licensed Veterinarians are doctors of veterinary medicine, and have gone through intense schooling to reach the point; they are no less highly educated than many human doctors- just in different areas. Your small animal veterinarian probably treats countless breeds on a daily basis, and I guarantee is Very familiar with their nutritional requirements.
This is probably the most obvious answer. How healthy does your pet appear? Is his/her belly extended?
“You should be able to feel their ribs but not see them. If you can see them, they are too skinny,” Dr. Dobies explains. “If you can’t see their ribs, and place your hands on the side of their chest and still can’t, they’re overweight (www.petmd.com).”
-DVM. Jim Dobies
How do I promote a healthy weight for my pet?
Are you providing your pet with good quality nutrition? Do you know what a balanced diet for your pet would amount to?
Don’t believe every advertisement you see; there are no laws yet preventing False Advertisement in this area. And- trust me- the majority of the ads you may see on television are promoting cheaply manufactured foods, claiming they are ‘the best for your pet’.
Do some research; know exactly what really is the best for your pet, what they thrive on! It won’t take much of your time.
Is your pet living a healthy lifestyle? How active is he/she? Do you provide plenty of games, or enough daily walks? You may be surprised at just how many dog owners never walk their dogs at all.
In the end- provide your beloved pet with a healthy diet and lifestyle; it’s not that difficult at all! I promise, they will thank you for it.
Michael is the owner and professional pet sitter of Paternal Pet Care in Clermont, Florida and a huge animal lover. He and his wife, Cassie, share their home with two rescued dogs.