Childhood obesity is an epidemic in this country. Our pets aren’t far behind. In fact, a 2005 study from Purina found that 60 percent of America’s pets are overweight.
Dog owners spent more than $300 a year on food and treats, while cat owners spent more than $200, according to the 2008 American Pet Products Manufacturers Association.
Don’t let your pet become another statistic. Obesity is a top health concern for veterinarians—excessive weight causes the same problems in pets as it does in humans.
Obesity Creates Additional Health Concerns
Diabetes, heart and lung diseases, bone and joint diseases, skin conditions and different types of cancer are more common in overweight animals, as is a shorter life expectancy.
That’s why it’s important to follow feeding and exercise guidelines set by your veterinarian for your pet’s specific needs. For instance, a large-breed dog, such as a German shepherd, will have different nutritional requirements than a Chihuahua or other small-breed dogs.
Cats seem to regulate their diets better than dogs (VPI Pet Insurance policyholders file more claims for canine obesity each year than for cats). So although there are overweight cats, it is a more common problem among dogs.
In 2009, VPI policyholders filed more than $17 million in claims for conditions and diseases that can be caused by excess weight.
Signs of Pet Obesity
Take your pet to the veterinarian for regular checkups. Ask if weight is an issue. You can also do these simple tests to determine if your pet has a problem:
- You should be able to feel your pet’s ribs without pressing.
- You should see a noticeable “waist” on your pet, between the back of the ribs and the hips, when viewing your pet from above. When looking from the side, your pet’s belly should go up from the bottom of the ribcage to inside the thighs.
If your pet fails these tests, he is likely overweight.
Be honest and objective about your pet’s weight. A 2006 study by Pfizer Animal Health showed that while 47 percent of veterinarians felt their canine patients were obese, only 17 percent of dog owners agreed.
Prevent Pet Obesity
Some owners take it personally if their pet is deemed overweight or obese. But loving your pet does not mean he needs a slice of your son’s birthday cake or an extra treat—a single biscuit could contain 100 calories.
A fast-food cheeseburger might be lunch for you, but for some small dogs, it’s the equivalent of five day’s worth of calories. Dog or cat food should satisfy all of your pet’s dietary needs—without pouring on gravy or adding table scraps.
Portion control is important to maintain. When reading the label on your pet’s food, follow the recommendation for your pet’s ideal weight, not his current weight.
If your pet is overweight, talk to your veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues that might be causing the problem. If your pet is otherwise healthy, discuss changing your pet’s diet. Consuming fewer calories is the first step and your veterinarian might recommend reduced-calorie food.
Increase your pet’s activity. Work him up to longer walks; 20-30 minutes at a brisk pace twice a day will help burn extra fat.
Avoid Hefty Veterinary Expenses
Obesity can become a costly problem. According to VPI Pet Insurance, in 2009, policyholders filed more than $17 million in claims for conditions and diseases that can be caused by excess weight.
Taking your pet to regular wellness visits lets both you and your veterinarian monitor your pet’s weight and any issues related to it.
A healthy and fit pet is a happy one—and he’ll be around longer for you to enjoy.
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