Pet Obesity: Awareness & Prevention

We love to spoil our pets, with lots of treats and scraps from our dinner table, but we don’t always consider the long-term effects. Unfortunately, pet obesity is a very real issue, affecting over half of the country’s domesticated animals. According to a 2015 survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), nearly 42 million dogs in the United States are estimated to be overweight, with over 15 million of those dogs considered obese. (The numbers are even higher for cats.)

Signs

Sometimes an obese dog is easy to spot, particularly if yours is a breed that has a prototype for comparison. For mixed breeds, and certainly for larger dogs – let’s call them “big-boned” – it’s not always as obvious when weight is a problem. Your veterinarian can weigh your dog, and be able to determine his or her Body Condition Score (BCS), which is a scale from 1 (emaciated) to 5 (obese). A BCS of 3 is moderate, and considered ideal.

Health Risks

Obesity can cause serious health issues, resulting in a low quality of life for the animals, and high medical bills for their owners. Ailments caused by pet obesity include high blood pressure, skin diseases, arthritis, hypothyroidism, diabetes, pancreatitis, hip and other joint problems, autoimmune diseases, and even cancer. Any of these risks will certainly cause discomfort, to say the least, and lead to premature death.

Causes

Pet obesity happens for a simple, two-fold reason: too many calories, and not enough exercise. The calories can come from overfeeding, overeating, or simply having the wrong balance of nutrients in the food to begin with. Even older dogs need exercise, to stimulate their muscles as well as their brains, but sometimes their routines, built up gradually over long periods of low activity, have put them in a rut.

Treatments

Taking more responsibility for your dog’s diet and exercise is the first step for getting your pup back in shape. Watch calorie counts, limit portions to the recommended size, give healthy low-calorie treats sparingly, and most of all, don’t give your dog any “people food”. Dogs process fats differently than humans, and while they will usually find anything we eat to be tasty, it’s simply not good for them. They have their food, made just for their metabolism, and we have ours.

For more severe cases, your vet may prescribe a specific diet and health regimen. More than likely it will include fresh as opposed to processed food, to be provided twice a day.

“Everything in moderation” applies to dogs just as well as to people. By taking a more observant role in your dog’s diet, you can help ensure he or she eats healthy. And by going for regular walks and extending playtime, you can do a world of good for your circulation too!

Featured Dog Treats

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