Unfortunately, this is what runs through my mind on a daily basis. Pet obesity is at an all-time high where approximately 55% of cats and dogs are considered overweight or obese! I find that often people do not realize that their pet is overweight in the first place or that there are significant health concerns that come hand in hand with obesity. For help on determining if your pet is overweight, please call us at the clinic or consult the following body condition chart:
If your pet is overweight they are more at risk for the following scary diseases: diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, cranial cruciate tears, and to top it off you can expect a decreased life expectancy of up to 2 years!
Purina conducted a 14-year study where they followed 48 Labrador Retrievers throughout their lives. These dogs were separated as puppies into 2 groups – a control group that was allowed to eat as much as they wanted in 15 minutes 3 times a day, and a group that was fed to maintain lean body condition. Both groups ate the same brand of food. The study found that the median survival time was significantly increased by 1.8 years or 15% in the lean dogs compared to the overweight ones. To put things in perspective, the median life span in the lean dogs was 13 years versus 11.2 years in the control group. That is a huge difference, and I know many of us fur moms and dads would love to have 1 more day with our pet, let alone almost 2 years! As well, if that doesn’t have you convinced enough that obesity is a serious problem, they also noted that the lean dogs also did not require treatment for a chronic condition (such as osteoarthritis) until ~ 2 years after the control dogs.
So your pet is overweight or obese. The first step is to realize it and acknowledge it. The next step is to take action! If you are unsure how to proceed, call us for help. There is so much that can be done and everyone can benefit from daily walks and exercise, as it serves for bonding time with your pet and a good form of de-stressing for all involved. I find the biggest contributing factor is the amount of food being fed and the worst culprits are the treats and table scraps. No more pizza crust for Rocky! Treats should not exceed 10% of daily caloric intake. Keep in mind that human food is often high in calories and fat and a tiny piece can contribute significantly to the daily caloric intake in cats and small dogs. For example, if a 5 kg dog/cat were to eat a cube of cheese (28g) that would be equivalent to a person eating 4 whole chocolate bars! In addition, if you have a lean pet you actually end up saving money by spending less on food and treats, medications for these chronic conditions, as well as those costly surgeries and treatments.
Obesity is a widespread and alarming concern in our pets and as a veterinarian one of the most frustrating health concerns to come across because it is totally preventable and treatable, but requires your commitment. Your pet isn’t opening the cupboards and binge eating on their own. You’re in charge of everything that goes in your pet’s mouth. Take accountability and stop overfeeding them out of love or guilt or whatever misguided reason because IT IS negatively impacting their health, even if you don’t currently see it and wouldn’t you rather have that extra time?
Written by Mclean Animal Hospital