New research by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention shows that the obesity epidemic in America is having a significant impact on America’s pets. Proper nutrition and exercise, for humans and for pets, are key to preventing serious and costly health problems.
Nearly two-thirds (68.8 percent) of Americans are considered overweight or obese. Likewise, nearly 53 percent of adult dogs and 55 percent of adult cats are considered overweight or obese by their veterinarian, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Obesity in pets is just as dangerous as it is for humans. Pets can easily develop some of the same obesity-associated health problems as humans, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease and a shortened life expectancy.
One of the main problems with this is that pet owners have gotten used to overweight as “normal,” though it is not the case. Many pet owners, especially those who are overweight or obese themselves, do not recognize that their pet is too heavy, and their pet’s diet reflects their own poor diet, often times comprised of unhealthy table scraps and high-calorie treats, research shows. Another issue is that many pet owners do not know how to properly assess their pet’s body condition, although many resources from pet food companies, nutritionists and, of course, veterinarians can help.
Pet owners who learn to assess their pet’s weight using body condition scoring and recognize that their pet is overweight can make changes to the pet’s diet or exercise regimen to help pets lose weight.
Pets should be exercised for at least 30 minutes a day, just as humans should. This can be done by taking the dog for a walk or run, taking them to the dog park, letting them run around and play in the backyard, rollerblading with your dog, etc.
Additionally, pet owners need to be aware that table scraps are neither nutritious for dogs, nor are they low in calories. Table scraps should be eliminated from an overweight dog’s diet, substituted for an occasional low-calorie dog treat. If the pet is just slightly heavy, a change in the feeding amount or switching to a low-calorie pet food formula may help. Many pet owners simply do not understand the calorie counts on pet food package and ignore the feeding guidelines, which results in over feeding their pet. If your dog is more overweight, a veterinarian can help to recommend a feeding regimen and anything else needed, as well as provide guidelines for how much to feed.
“Pet obesity is plainly a people problem, not a pet problem,” says Dr. Ernie Ward, founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. “The most important decision pet owners make each day regarding their pet’s health is what they choose to feed it.”