Pet Obesity: Is it an Epidemic?
February 01, 2012
I know that many of us make New Year's resolutions to lose weight. I also know that right about now those resolutions are quickly becoming a thing of the past. During the month of January, I usually think about the resolution to lose weight, look at the weather, and then cancel my plans for a walk. Well, this year I am going to be better because I have an overweight pet.
My dachshund, Dash, is a great little dog and about 3-4 pounds overweight. He needs exercise and diet help. Many of you may be thinking that 3-4 pounds is not that much weight to lose. But, here are a few facts for you to consider. According to the website Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 55% of dogs and 53% of cats in the United States are overweight or obese. This seems to be an epidemic. Apparently, as we gain weight to unhealthy proportions, our pets are at risk also.
Being overweight or obese for pets can actually carry many of the risk factors associated with being overweight in humans. Pets who are overweight or obese suffer from osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, heart and respiratory disease, kidney disease, and a shortened life expectancy.
I have to admit, I get nervous when I take him to the vet because I am embarrassed about his weight. If you are feeling this way because your pet is overweight, here are a few things you can do. Start by finding out what your pet should weigh. There are calculators on the web that will help with this. I like the above mentioned Pet Obesity Prevention site. After determining this, the Pet MD website recommends that you reduce your pet's food intake by one third. This includes snacks. Weigh your pet again in two weeks to see if any progress has been made. If your pet has lost weight, you are on the right track. If not, you will need to take additional measures. Please remember to consult your vet to help determine what is best for your pet before taking any drastic measures.
The last time I talked to the vet about Dash's weight, I was advised that green beans are a great way to supplement his diet without adding too many calories. Also, be careful about the snacks you give to your pet. One of the first few ingredients I found listed on one of Dash's favorite snacks was sugar. I had to look at the labels on two or three before I found one that did not list sugar as an ingredient. I didn't even think about this until I was advised by my vet to read labels on dog treats and watch for sugar. Who knew, right? There are several books at the library that give recipes for healthy homemade food and snacks for your pet. Try these: Chow Hounds: Why Our Dogs are Getting Fatter and a Vet's Plan to Save Their Lives by Ernie Ward or The Whole Pet Diet: Eight Weeks to Great Health for Dogs and Cats by Andi Brown.
It is very important that we don't forget to exercise our pets. Dash really gets excited about a walk. No matter the weather, he is ready to go. He is a great walking partner and motivates me to get out. It's a simple as this, while I sometimes can't motivate myself to keep that New Year's resolution to lose weight, I look at his little face, see those trusting eyes, and realize that it is good for me to do something good for him.