Apparently, American citizens aren’t the only ones packing on the pounds and at risk for a myriad of health problems. No, we’re not going to point fingers at other countries and their equally portly populations in an effort to make ourselves feel better. But rather it’s our pets whose waistlines are expanding, and sadly it’s pretty proportionate to our own. Depending on whose statistics you’re looking at, between one third and one half of all Americans need to lose weight. Believe it or not, that’s actually an improvement. Back in 2010, the CDC noted that up to 68 percent of adult Americans were considered overweight or obese.
Obesity in Pets
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, roughly 55 percent of dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese. Just last month, on October 7, it was National Pet Obesity Awareness Day. You probably missed it, but it came and went, nonetheless. The purpose of the day is to bring awareness to pet owners on the very important and often touchy subject of feline and canine obesity, and not only how it influences your pets’ health, but how much it shortens their lives. It seems a lot of us are living in denial on the subject of just how “big boned” our pets really are.
An estimated 52.7 percent of U.S. dogs are considered to be overweight or obese. Of that percentage, 17.6 percent are obese. Cats fare even worse. That’s because an estimated 57.9 percent of felines in the United States are overweight or obese, with approximately 28.1 percent of them classified as obese. So, while we may be able to give ourselves a hand for dropping a few pounds ourselves, we’re obviously dropping the ball when it comes to our beloved animals. If we face facts, overfeeding and a lack of adequate exercise is most often the culprit for these conditions.
Health Risks of Being Overweight
The health risks for overweight or obese pets are pretty much the same as for human beings — diabetes, heart disease, etc. We’ve all heard the “Obesity is the new smoking” comparisons. That’s because the total number of deaths connected to poor diet and physical inactivity has equaled or surpassed that of smoking-related deaths. Simply put, obesity ultimately kills, and we’re not taking it seriously in our pets. Besides shortened life spans, just as with people, added pounds put undue pressure on joints and can lead to arthritis and injuries that lead to further inactivity.
While we spoil and pamper our pets as never before, we’re inadvertently part of the problem. Sure, numbers are improving steadily on increased preventative care and yearly checkups, but we need to do more to keep them healthy. So what can you do? First off, be honest with yourself about your pet's weight status. Being frank is the first step.
There is a simple test you can conduct at home to determine if your pet has seen maybe one too many treats. Stand directly over your dog or cat and look down. If you can’t even see a hint of their ribs or feel them, chances are they’re overweight. If there’s any question, then ask your vet. He or she will be able to assess the situation and make recommendations based on health and age for dietary changes and activity levels.
Older Dogs & Cats
A final note concerning older dogs and cats: just because they’re old is no reason to rush them to the grave. All too often people use the lame excuse that, “Well, they’re old, let them eat whatever they want. They won’t be around much longer.” Unless your vet has given your pet a fatal diagnosis with only days or weeks to live, you’re basically creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Stop it. Our pets give us so much, and they deserve better. We owe it to them to give them the best, healthiest lives we can.