As we head into the New Year, many Americans are thinking about what they would like to do differently. These New Year resolutions extend to our pets as well. What, and how much we are feeding, our pets, has a significant impact on their waistline and overall health.
Guest contributor Jordan Walker of Coops And Cages offers insight on the obesity epidemic in pets and what we can do about it!
When it comes to pets, chubbiness can be pretty darn cute. Chubby pets are so fluffy and irresistible, owners and others can’t help but cuddle them! Plump pets may seem excusable and taken to mean a pet is well-loved, cared for, and oozing with cuteness. However, humans have been warned about obesity and the adverse health risks associated with it. Is this also true for pets?
The “Fat Pet Gap”
The Association of Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) says that millions of pets in America are too heavy for their own good. 53% of dogs and 57% of cats, a combined total of 179 million pets, are currently overweight or obese. However, many pet parents don’t even realize that their pets are tipping the scales. Pet owners surveyed said their pets were normal weight when they were in fact overweight or obese. APOP founder, Dr. Ernie Ward, refers to this lack of awareness as the “fat pet gap,” where pet parents have normalized pet obesity. This means fat pets have become the new norm. This should not be taken lightly!
What is obesity?
Like in humans, obesity in pets is defined as having excess body fat. If a pet is obese, not only does it weigh more, but it has more fat in its body than considered healthy. Weight is some indicator of obesity. In dogs and cats, being overweight means weighing 10 to 15 percent above the ideal weight. Obesity, on the other hand, is weighing 15 percent or higher than the ideal weight. 10 to 20% over the ideal weight may not mean much on the scale. For example, if a pet’s ideal weight is 20 pounds, it will only need to put on 4 pounds to be considered obese.
Could your pet be obese?
Most pet owners would be hard put to determine whether their bundle of fur is obese. The onset of obesity can be barely noticeable – at least to some – and when it is, the pet may have already grown extra fluffy. Determining the ideal weight for pets and weighing them regularly will help in keeping healthy pets in healthy form.
Experts have also developed a way of determining a pet’s body condition by visual and hand inspection. In order for a pet owner to tell whether their pet is in the ideal range of health, they should feel for their pet’s ribs. In normal dogs and cats, the ribs should easily be felt, but not sharp against the skin. For both animals, when looking from the side, a waist should be defined, and the belly not sag.
What (or who) causes pets to grow out?
Quite simply, obesity usually results when pets are overfed and under-exercised, have conditions like hyperthyroidism or Cushing Disease, or are neutered/castrated. Overfeeding is the main cause of pet obesity, and pet owners are largely to blame. After all, it is the humans who do the feeding. Free feeding, where food is freely available in the bowl, is one main cause. Pets who are allowed to eat as much as they want, whenever they want, are more likely to become obese.
Another reason is a lack of exercise. The simple rule of “calories in, calories out” with humans also applies to pets. If pets get more food than exercise, they are more likely to plump up. Treating excessively is yet another contributing factor. Treats should be given in moderation and not replace a dog’s regular meal. Best Bully Sticks natural, single-ingredient dog treats are low in calories and high in protein for a dog chew owners can feel good about.
Check back with us next week as we continue on the topic of Pet Obesity and measures you can take to prevent obesity and undo the extra pounds!
Author: Jordan Walker
Jordan is the lead content curator for Coops And Cages and other pet-related blogs. His passion for animals is only matched by his love for ‘attempting’ to play the guitar. If you would like to catch him, you can via Google+ or Twitter.