Pet obesity is becoming a major epidemic and is already a top health problem for pets. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that 52.7% of dogs and 57.9% of cats are overweight or obese. And the number of fat pets is expected to further exceed the number of healthy ones within five years.
Obesity can cause or worsen serious health and welfare problems that can reduce the length and quality of a pet’s life. The health implications caused by obesity include arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, multiple cancers, reproductive problems, heat intolerance,
decreased stamina, kidney disease, respiratory disease, liver disease. Pet obesity can reduce life expectancy up to 2.5 years. All these destructive consequences are also sure to become a financial challenge for pet owners.
You can easily check if your dog or cat is overweight or obese by feeling your pet’s individual rib bones with light pressure. A pet with normal weight should have a well-defined waist when viewed from above and a tucked up underbelly when viewed from the side. You should also contact your veterinarian to determine your pet’s body condition score (BCS) to see how much your furry friend is overweight or obese. The Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) developed a set of Pet Size-O-Meters for dogs, cats, rabbits, birds and guinea pigs, which is quite helpful and easy to use.
Two main causes of pet obesity are quite obvious: our pets are being fed too much and exercised too little. Pet parents do not usually follow feeding guidelines or count calories their pets consume. Most owners are used to feed their animals on demand or even “free feed” them, that is provide constant access to food throughout the day. Such sweet treats like cheese, crisps, chips or table scraps should also be considered harmful as they really add lots of extra calories to the daily ration. Plus, in order to stay fit, all animals should be physically active every day.
Therefore a successful weight loss program includes two basic components: the amount of food your pet gets every day and the level of physical activity to burn those calories. Your veterinarian is probably the best place to start the weight loss process without causing too much discomfort to your pet.
First, your vet will define exactly how much food needs to be taken and schedule the diet throughout the day. You should beware of fat, salt, sugar, processed food and artificial ingredients. Instead of high calorie treats and snacks you can use apple slices, carrot sticks or celery. These are examples of a great source of fiber with low calories.
Exercising has always been vital for both mental and physical health. So you need to increase your pet’s activity to make him or her burn the excess fat. But taking your animal out for a short walk to do some “business” is not enough at all. You need power walking or even running sometimes if you intend to lose weight. Your pet should move regularly and for at least 20 minutes a day. Let your cat chase toys or laser pointer a little longer or let your dog enjoy fresh air for about an hour or more.
You should always remember that you are responsible for your pet’s health and welfare. Weight loss is quite a slow and hard process, which you need to go through to keep your best furry friend at its happiest and healthiest for years to come.