What does the pandemic of cat and dog obesity tell us about the pandemic of human obesity? Animals don`t get fat in the wild, only when they live with obese humans and are fed the same junk food. No junk food, no obesity. No survey has looked at the association between pet obesity and obesity in their owners but we would predict that there would be a very good correlation.
We are surprised that no mention is made of Pfizer`s Slentrol, “the first prescription weight loss medication for dogs”. Feed your dog expensive junk and then spend more money on an expensive pill.
Given that today is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day, I thought I would touch on the topic and provide some handy references and tips for those pet owners concerned about the size of their furry companions.
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 33 million (44%) of US Dogs and 51 million (57%) US Cats are Overweight or Obese.
“Pudgy pooches and fat cats are now the norm.” states Dr. Ernie Ward, founder and President of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) in a recent press release. He goes on to suggest that “the majority of today’s overweight pets will endure painful and expensive medical conditions – all of which can be avoided.”
But how can you tell if your pet is overweight or obese?
Here are a few simple guidelines provided by APOP:
Your Pet is Overweight if…
- Difficult to feel ribs under fat
- Sagging stomach – you can grab a handful of fat!
- Broad, flat back
- No waist is apparent
More specifically, you can refer to the Body Conditioning Scoring System for Dogs and Cats which has an easy to follow grading system (with pictures) : 1 (very thin), 2 (underweight), 3 (ideal), 4 (overweight), 5 (obese).
The APOP website also offers a helpful Pet Obesity Info Sheet which lists the proper weights of various breeds of dogs and cats, their regular dietary needs (calories), as well as nutritional information for various pet treats and foods.
For example, did you know that your Golden Retriever should not be exceeding 75 lbs while your regular domestic cat should stay under 10 lbs?
Much as in humans, excess weight among pets is associated with increased risk of numerous diseases including: osteoarthritis , diabetes, hypertension , cardiovascular disease , and cancer.
And what are the factors predisposing your pet to gaining excess weight?
A 2003 study conducted by Robertson in Murdoch University, Australia used a random telephone survey of 2326 households in the Perth metropolitan region to interview the 657 owners of a total of 860 dogs. In this study, most dogs (69.7%) were considered by their owners to be the correct-weight or body-condition, while 25.2% were considered overweight or obese – numbers that are lower than those documented in the US.
The study found that dogs that were overweight or obese were more likely to be neutered, fed snacks, be of older age, and ate only one meal a day. Additionally, for every hour of exercise performed by the dog each week their risk of obesity fell by 10%.
As your pet’s owner, you are responsible for ensuring little Mr. Bojangles lives a long and healthy life. To do so, you have to keep your cat or dog at a normal weight.
In the end, the strategies are quite similar to that for obese humans.
First, the pet should be checked by a vet for any possible disease states predisposing to obesity, and making weight loss potentially difficult.
Second is calorie balance – increasing the amount of daily exercise your pet gets (easier with dog than cat), while limiting the number of calories they ingest – being particularly careful to not exceed their nutritional requirements with snacks and scraps of “people food” or by using a self-feeder.
Keeping a daily log of activity, caloric intake, and regular weigh-ins is a good way to track progress. For a sample food and activity log for your pet click here.
And finally, if you would like your pet to participate in today’s national effort to raise awareness of pet obesity, and help establish reliable data on the severity of the issue, please fill out the online Pet Obesity Data Form.