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Obesity in Pets

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Obesity in Pets | As owners go, so go their pets. The obesity epidemic began in the US in the 1980s, with a dramatic increase noted over the last decade. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 40% of all adults over the age of 20 in the U.S. are currently classified as obese. This trend is directly mirrored in the pet population.

According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 59.5% of cats and 55.8% of dogs classified as overweight or obese. Just as obesity plays a key factor in your overall health and wellness, your obese pet is also at risk from a multitude of diseases and health concerns.

What does obesity mean for your pet?

Obesity in dogs and cats is a serious medical condition. In fact, it is one of the most common medical conditions diagnosed on routine physical examination. In general, obese pets are more at risk in surgery, more prone to injury, and have more stress on the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and joints. They are more prone to breathing issues and cardiovascular dysfunction. Excessive body weight can worsen osteoarthritis, can cause respiratory problems in hot weather and during exercise, increase heat intolerance, lead to type 2 diabetes, and generally lessen the quality of life for your pet. In several studies, dogs with a healthy body weight had a mean lifespan of nearly two years longer, as well as delayed onset of many chronic diseases commonly seen in the aging pet.

How can I help my pet reach a healthy body weight?

The weight loss process in dogs is no different than in people, which is why they are a perfect partner for a weight loss and fitness program. Diet and exercise are the key to reaching and maintaining a successful body weight/condition for both you and your pet. Learning to make smart decisions in feeding our pets, including choice, portion, and treats is an important first step in the weight loss program. As a general rule, treats should make up no more than 10% of your pet’s daily calorie requirements. For instance, if Fido’s recommended calorie consumption is 500 calories per day, only 50 calories should come from treats. Pets are not people and, as such, do not have the same emotional attachments to food. It is important to remember this and to change the ways in which we show affection to our pets.

One of the best ways to show affection to your pet is through a walk, tossing the ball, or a chase session with the laser pointer. Remember, you control your pet’s diet exclusively and are solely responsible for their weight loss success. There are no late-night refrigerator raids for your pooch; they only consume what you offer. Making smarter decisions for our pet can increase longevity and improve their overall quality of life.

Dr Kari Nugent is a graduate of Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine and has been a practicing veterinarian for sixteen years.  She owns Unleashed Pet Care, a quaint companion animal clinic located in Westland Michigan.