Obesity. People and pets are both suffering from expanding waistlines. It’s a fact that nearly half of America is overweight, and today that statistic holds true for pets as well. Of the 41 million pet dogs in this country, about 50 percent are either overweight or obese. That fat cat or chubby Chihuahua may seem cute and cuddly. But overweight and obese pets, just like their human counterparts, are at risk for a host of diseases and could be en route to an early grave. There are a lot of serious, long-term health concerns associated with pet obesity. Obese pets are at risk for arthritis, heart problems and breathing disorders. Overweight dogs and cats have decreased immune system function which puts them at risk for a mirage of contagious and infectious diseases.
Overweight cats and dogs are also at a greater risk for developing diabetes and cancer. There are two main causes of pet obesity: overfeeding and lack of exercise. Certain breeds are at a higher risk for obesity including labs, pugs and Boston terriers.
In some cases, it’s hard for owners to determine whether or not their pet is overweight. Carol Osborne, a veterinarian in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, suggests running your hands along either side of your pet’s rib cage. “You should be able to easily feel, but not see each rib and pets should have a “waist” or a tucked up area behind their rib cage. If you can’t feel your pets ribs and/or if you can pinch more than an inch it’s time to cut back.” Take your dog or cat for a weigh-in at your vet’s and then work with your vet to put together a diet and exercise plan suitable for your pet.
For those snackers, Osborne said, “asparagus tips, broccoli and other fresh veggies make healthy, low cal snacks for dogs and cats”. Osborne also suggests taking dogs out for daily walks at least 20 minutes twice a day. “Many cats enjoy going for walks and a harness helps keep them safe and secure. Consider educational, interactive toys to bust boredom and promote exercise indoors. You can play hide and seek or make a game out of going up and down the stairs when you can’t get outside. Massage is also stimulating and promotes the bond between pets and their owners.”
Some statistics for those caring for pets:
- Almost 50 percent of the dogs and cats in America are overweight
- Obese pets are at risk for heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, urinary track disorders and cancer
- One extra pound on a Pekinese is the equivalent of nearly 40 pounds on an average woman
- One ounce of cheese for a 20-pound dog is the equivalent to a person eating a burger and a half
- One cup of milk for a 10-pound cat is equal to a person eating five chocolate bars
- One hour of exercise extends your pet’s healthy lifespan by 2 days or 48 hours