Just as human obesity seems to have escalated in recent years, so has the obesity level of our pets. Obesity in cats and dogs is unhealthy, and is now one of the most common health problems pet owners have to deal with. It is the responsibility of a loving pet owner to see that the nutritional needs of his pet are met, and that healthy routines and regular exercise are provided in order to maintain their pet’s health. As with humans, commitment to a well-balanced diet and solid daily routine is key in preventing pet obesity.
CAUSES OF OBESITY IN DOGS
We all love our pets and enjoy rewarding their antics when they entertain us or when they respond to our commands. However, it is also very easy for these rewards to become too frequent, which ultimately results in a breakdown of our pet’s healthy diet, placing unwanted stress on our pet’s digestive system. To maintain a good balance in our pet’s daily meals and special treats, the treats should not exceed 10% of your pet’s daily diet.
2. Medical Conditions
Sometimes a dog or cat has a health issue or medical condition which can affect their weight, either because of a special dietary requirement or medicine they receive. Stress due to an existing medical condition may also cause the animal to eat more than it normally would, as it seeks comfort in something familiar. If your veterinarian has prescribed special medicine for a disease or chronic condition, he will also explain how this may impact your pet’s daily diet and nutritional needs. It is very important that you adhere to any dietary restrictions and or changes that your veterinarian requires while your pet is being medicated, whether it is for a brief period of time or long-term chronic condition. Neglecting any dietary restrictions that accompany a medical condition, or while being medicated, can contribute to excessive weight gain or have dangerous consequences for your pet.
3. Poor Diet
Many owners fall victim to commercial marketing and believe that all pet foods they purchase in grocery stores or from pet stores are equally nutritious. However, it is important to pay close attention to the ingredients and quality of the food you choose for your pets, no matter where you purchase it. Many commercial pet foods contain fillers and ingredients that have no nutritional value, but are simply added to make the food look and taste more palatable, or even more often, to give it a longer shelf life for selling purposes. Many of these ingredients not only fail nutritionally, but they are dangerous to your pet’s health by reducing the efficiency of their digestive system, which can cause uncomfortable constipation and unhealthy weight gain. A good rule to remember is that the less you pay for your pet’s food, the less nutritional value it probably has. Although cost is often a normal concern for owners, it should never overshadow the nutritional value or health benefits to your pet. You may purchase less expensive pet food, but the increased costs of more trips to the veterinarian due to nutrition related health conditions will end up costing more overall.
4. Daily Routine
No matter how busy our daily lives get, exercise for ourselves and our beloved pets is essential to good health. As pet owners it is our responsibility to see that our pets are given the opportunity to get the daily exercise their bodies need to be healthy. Pet obesity is often a direct result of overfeeding and overeating combined with lack of exercise.
SIGNS OF PET OBESITY
- It should be easy to locate your pet’s rib cage without pressing hard on their chest or sides. If you cannot feel the ribs, then there is a good chance your pets is carrying some excess weight.
- No matter what breed, you should be able to easily distinguish where your pet’s waist is located, by looking down over their back. It should also be clear, if viewing your pet from the side, where the belly begins to rise just past the rib cage to meet the thighs.
Cats do a better job of regulating their weight than canines do, however, it is not impossible for them to become overweight too.
PREVENTING PET OBESITY
It is interesting how many pet owners will become defensive when the veterinarian tells them their pet is overweight, and proceeds to explain what may have caused that unhealthy condition. Understandably, as pet owners, we do not want to believe we may have contributed to our pet’s poor health; however, since our pets rely on us for everything, we need to do our best when this does happen to make the necessary changes to correct this condition as soon as possible.
- If you are feeding your dog or cat a nutritional, high quality pet food, then the addition of table scraps, gravy or any other items from your dinner table will not be needed to meet their daily dietary needs. Resist feeding your dog commercial treats, dog biscuits or snack foods from your pantry, as these contain ingredients that are difficult for your dog to digest and add unwanted calories to their diets. You may feel as though you are rewarding your dog affectionately, but you are doing more harm than good. Give them a hug or take them for a walk instead!
- Controlling the portion is very important. Our pets will eat whatever amount we provide for them. If we give them too much food at feedings, they will consume it. They learn that when food is provided, the routine is to empty the bowl and it will be refilled at the next mealtime. The pet food your veterinarian recommends will provide clear instructions on the amount to feed your pet daily to maintain an optimum weight level. Failure to follow these guidelines can have a negative result.
- Make sure you take your pet to the veterinarian for all his regularly scheduled visits and annual checkups. Skipping examinations and appointments to monitor chronic conditions may seem insignificant once or twice, but could have a negative long-term result, or result in missing the diagnosis of an underlying condition that is contributing to unhealthy weight gain.
- Don’t trust your eyes. Seeing your pet on a daily basis makes it difficult to notice how quickly his weight may be escalating to an unhealthy level, simply because the changes are subtle when viewed daily.
CONSEQUENCES OF OBESITY IN PETS
An overweight dog can suffer from a variety of unhealthy conditions related to obesity, including:
- High blood pressure
- Kidney disease
- Reduced life expectancy
- Heart disease
- Respiratory Problems
- Ligament and joint injury and failure
- Various forms of cancer
How do you keep your pet at a healthy weight? Share your methods with us in the comments!