January 7th, 2015 by Taylor Malowney
You've heard about the dangers of human obesity for years now; everyone from Doctor Oz to Michelle Obama is trying to get Americans to eat healthy. But what about pets?
The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention says 52.6% of U.S. dogs and 57.6% of cats are overweight – a startling figure. The figures for pet obesity – defined as “those at least 30 percent above normal weight or a body condition score (BCS) of 5″ – are lower but still shocking, with 16.7% of dogs and 27.4% of cats obese.
The cause of this crisis is heavily speculated, with some pointing the finger at pet parents and others at pet food companies and advertising. Most pet parents have no idea their pet is overweight or obese until their vet recommends weight loss, despite the harmful effects of extra pounds.
Having an obese pet hurts more than just their heart. While diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease are all more likely in obese pets, extra pounds can decrease your pet’s overall life expectancy by up to 2.5 years.
Overweight pets typically have reduced mobility as the pounds put pressure on joints. Osteoarthritis is a common complaint of obese dogs and cats, as are cruciate ligament injuries.
Pets’ bodies were designed to remain in a healthy weight range; when the scale tips, your pet can’t keep up. Organs and muscles all have to work harder to support the extra pounds, which can put them into overdrive and lead to kidney disease or cancer. If you’re unsure of your pet’s healthy weight, talk to your vet.
It’s easy to prevent your pet from becoming overweight - don’t overfeed and make sure you both get plenty of exercise! Overfeeding is the main culprit of pet obesity; one survey found that up to a fifth of pet parents characterized their pets as normal when they were actually obese.
Unintentional overfeeding is the number one culprit of pet obesity. Image via Commercial Creative Commons on Flickr.
Select a healthy pet food that is appropriate for your pet’s life stage – puppy or kitten, adult or senior – and follow the recommended portioning, depending on their weight and activity level. If your pet has specific dietary needs or restrictions, or if you’re unsure how much to feed him or her, ask your vet!
Older pets in particular are more prone to packing on the pounds. Just because your pet is elderly doesn’t mean they don’t need exercise; try daily walks or light jogs for some senior-friendly activities. Swimming is also a great option in the summer, as the water’s buoyancy takes pressure off aging joints.
Does your pet have health insurance? Healthy Paws Pet Insurance provides coverage with no limits on claims.
If your pet needs treatment for any accident or illness and it's not a pre-existing condition, you're covered. It's that simple