Now, That’s Heavy: Pet Obesity

Are we loving our pets all the way to veterinary hospital and into shorter lifespans?

Pet obesity, especially among dogs and cats, has been steadily paralleling human obesity. Veterinarians and animal health experts said human behavior and lifestyles are partly responsible for fat cats and pudgy pooches ? they most likely eat how their owners eat, and exercise as much as their owners exercise. In the United States, more than 44 percent of dogs and 57 percent of cats are either overweight or obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.

Think that’s heavy? Try this one on for size: an APOP obesity study estimated 7.2 million dogs to be obese and 26 million overweight, while a hefty 15.7 million cats are estimated to be obese and 35 million overweight.

“These numbers, 33 million dogs and 51 million cats that are overweight, represent a huge problem for everyone,” said head researcher Dr. Ernie Ward. “Excess weight causes or contributes to many painful and debilitating conditions. Just as we?ve become a nation of couch potatoes, our pets have become a nation of lap potatoes ? and that?s not good for anyone.”

Obese animals are more predisposed to orthopedic diseases, Type 2 diabetes, urinary and reproductive disorders, and cancers, according to one recent British study. The scale of the issue is reflected by the increase of medical research, developments in health treatment ? the Food and Drug Administration two years ago approved Slentrol, the first prescription drug used to treat canine obesity ? and even a national awareness day.

Take a bite out of pet obesity ? Talk to your vet, peruse APOP’s meaty weight loss resource section, and check out these Petsguide tips and factoids:

Fat Cat, Hoggie Doggie
How can you tell if your pet is overweight? Your pet is probably overweight if: 1) you can’t feel their ribs, 2) If there is no waistline visible below the ribs and above the hips when looking from above, or 3) If there is no visible “tuck,” where the fullness of the chest tapers to the waist, when looking from the side.

Nice To ‘Meat’ You
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they must eat meat to survive. Dogs are carnivores, which means they must eat meat to thrive, but not necessarily to survive. Neither cats or dogs require carbohydrates or grains as a nutrient source.

How ‘Treat’ It Is
Treats are not intended to meet 100 percent of the nutritional needs of pets. Many are filled with fats, dyes and sugars, but even the healthiest 100 percent natural treats should make up no more than 5 percent of a normal pet?s diet. For a healthier option, try apple slices as a treat for dogs or a bit of canned pumpkin for cats (both are natural sources of antioxidants). Or just spoil your fuzzy friend with some extra playtime instead of extra calories!

A Complete and Balanced Breakfast
Pet foods can earn a “complete and balanced” AAFCO label three ways: 1) Passing a six-month feeding trial (6 out of 8 dogs must survive without losing more that 15% of their body weight), 2) being “related” to a product that passed a feeding trial, or 3) passing a minimum nutrient profile test. Since one audacious pet food manufacturer actually passed AAFCO’s nutrient profile test using a mix of crushed coal, leather shoes, used motor oil and water, we recommend the first method only. YUCK!