It is hard to miss the stories in the news about the obesity epidemic that is sweeping our nation, especially as it pertains to children. But were you aware that a similar health epidemic is infecting our pet population as well?
A study carried out by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) finds that 53% of cats and 55% of dogs were overweight or obese. In a preliminary sample:
32% of cats were classified as overweight by their veterinarian and 21.6% were observed to be clinically obese or greater than 30% of normal body weight. 35% of dogs were found to be overweight and 20.6% obese.
APOP founder Dr. Ernie Ward remarks, “This year’s data suggests that our pets are getting fatter. We’re seeing a greater percentage of obese pets than ever before.” He adds:
While the general trend of overweight pets has remained fairly steady at around 50%, the number of obese pets is growing. This is troubling because it means more pets will be affected by weight-related diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease costing pet owners millions in avoidable medical costs.
It is easy to fall victim to the tendency to “kill your pet with kindness” by using treats as a reward for learning positive behaviors. A sedentary lifestyle is another factor that contributes to overweight and obesity among pets. If the only exercise your dog gets is daily walks for the purpose of relieving bodily waste, then your pooch is not physically active. Cats, and especially indoor “house cats,” are also prone to health problems arising out of insufficient activity.
A starting point on your pet’s road to better health is determining whether he or she is in fact overweight or obese. This is not a condition that can be assessed by simply observation. A pet can appear outwardly healthy to the untrained eye but may harbor conditions that will shorten his or her life.
APOP’s Pet Weight Translator and Pet Weight Calculator are tools that will help you find out if your dog or cat is at a healthy weight. The page even contains Pet-to-Human Weight Equivalency Charts for some three dozen species of dogs.
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