In a world of “super-sized” meals and sedentary living, we’re getting larger… and so are our pets.
In 2005, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) reported that 35 percent of Canadian pets were overweight – and those numbers are believed to have risen significantly since then.
What are the risks?
Obesity can lead to many serious health problems, as well as a shorter lifespan. Overweight pets often face a reduced quality of life, and their lifespan can be shortened by as much as two years.
Overweight pets also face an increased risk for developing serious medical conditions including:
- Arthritis and joint pain
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Some forms of cancer
- Asthma and respiratory issues
- Urinary tract diseases
- Tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee
- Circulatory problems
- Skin infections
With increasing pain and mobility issues, overweight pets may find it more difficult to do simple daily tasks, like self-grooming and going to the bathroom.
Why is this happening?
We love our pets. Their health and comfort are very important to us. So why are pet obesity numbers still on the rise?
Here’s the bottom line. Most pet parents are in denial. We simply don’t realize that our pets are overweight.
Weight gain doesn’t happen overnight. It happens gradually, over a period of time. We see our pets every day, so we may not even notice the weight gain until our pet has become obese.
For some pets, the difference between a healthy weight and being overweight can be a matter of ounces. Consider that a three-pound weight gain in a seven-pound cat or dog will nearly double its body mass! That’s why it’s so important to watch for small changes in your pet’s weight and take action sooner than later.
When is a pet "overweight"?
Here’s a general rule to help you monitor your pet’s weight. When you touch your pet along its back you should feel good definition in the waist. You should be able to feel the ribs. If you can’t, chances are your pet is overweight.
Your veterinarian can determine your pet’s healthy goal weight and monitor weight changes through regular check-ups.
What can you do?
It takes a healthy diet and regular exercise to keep your pet at a healthy weight, or to help an obese pet return to a healthy weight. Being informed and making the right decisions can make all the difference.
Feed the right food in the right portions
We love our pets so much that it feels good to “reward” them with food. The CVMA reports that more than 80 percent of pet parents over-feed their pets, giving them more food than the package recommends. We also tend to be overly generous with treats.
There are many healthy treats that have fewer calories and still taste great. Reward your pet with healthy treats and monitor how many treats you give each day.
Choose a healthy food that is designed for your pet’s life stage. Monitor the amount of food you give each day, feeding smaller portions that are given more often. Never use a self-feeder that lets pets eat as much as they want whenever they want. If your pet is overweight, try a food that is designed for weight control.
If your pet begs for food or table scraps, don’t give in. Instead, reward your dog with more attention and playtime.
Keep your pet active
According to the CVMA, our pets need to be more active. Canadian veterinarians estimate that 55 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats do not get enough playtime. Today’s pets spend much less time outdoors, which makes them less active. As a result, they should consume less calories.
Make the time to play with your pet, and make it a priority. Not only will it keep your pet healthy, it will also help you bond with your pet and strengthen your relationship.
Make sure your pets get enough physical activity. Not only will it help keep them fit, it will also make them happy. Regular activity helps keep our pets content.
- DOGS – 15 to 20 minutes of activity at least 3 times a day
- CATS – 10 to 15 minutes of activity at least twice a day
Rule out medical reasons for weight gain
If your pet gets plenty of exercise and eats the right foods in the right portions but is still overweight, it is important to rule out possible medical reasons for the weight gain. See your veterinarian to determine if the weight gain is related to a medical condition.