The Growing Obesity Epidemic in Dogs & Cats
Obesity in cats and dogs has, unfortunately, become an accepted household occurrence for many pet owners, and the excuse... 'Oh, he is just big boned', doesn't cut it anymore. With health warnings increasing as experts study the effects of life long obesity, we can not continue to put our heads in the sand and pretend that it doesn't matter.
Overweight cats and dogs have become as much of an epidemic in Australia as it is with humans, and the people who are responsible for this are their owners (harsh but true).
The sixth annual National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) found that 53% of dogs and 58.3% of cats are overweight or obese by their veterinarian.
WHY ARE DOGS AND CATS BEING OVERFED BY THEIR OWNERS?
Here are some common misconceptions that many pet owners have:
- He gets bored with the same food
- I feel bad eating something tastier than him… He knows!
- It’s the breed of my dog… they are all stocky (e.g. staffies, bull dogs, jack russells etc.)
- He doesn't eat that much
- He only eats once a day
- He only gets a few treats here and there
Here are some easy explanations for all of these:
- Dogs and cats do not know what McDonalds and Dominos are. They only know what you expose them to. The more you expose them to.. the more ‘picky’ they will become. They do not need a massive variety!
- Your dog or cat has no idea what you are eating. Does it smell nice… yes! Will he eat it if you put it on the ground… yes! Put your dog outside with a toy, feed him his own dinner, or put him in another room whilst you are eating.
- No, it is not the breed of your dog. Everything in your dog's life is harder if he is overweight. Including breathing. People have now become accustomed to seeing overweight dogs and cats, and often do not understand what is truly ‘normal’.
- This one is fairly straight forward.. he is eating too much. It all comes down to the amount of energy that goes in vs the amount that comes out.
- It is fine to feed your dog twice a day. The key is to feed a larger meal in the morning and a smaller meal in the evening. Just the same as with humans. Otherwise, if they are fed once a day in the evening, they eat and then go to sleep and don't burn off the energy from the food and it is more likely to turn to fat. Also, imaging if you ate all of your food for the day just before bed... you know yourself that there is a higher chance that it will turn to fat.
- A few treats here and there is very different to few treats every day or after every meal. It is very easy to increase this unintentionally. Remember, they are treats for a reason. If you treated yourself to a few Tim Tam's multiple times every day, would you lose weight? Switch to low-fat treats such as Pork Lung Crisp, Kangaroo Ears or Shark Skin so you can reward guilt free.
IS YOUR CAT OR DOG OVERWEIGHT?
While this chart may seem basic and not important, it is a very powerful way of easily identifying where your pet is sitting in terms of weight and if he is overweight.
It is always best to feed a balanced diet, whether it is a commercial food or a home-based diet... It MUST be balanced, otherwise, your pet will get deficiencies and eventually all sorts of health problems.
DO DOGS REALLY CARE IF THEY ARE OVERWEIGHT?
Meet Obie, he is a beautiful little daschund that was 22kg overwieght! That is not a typo.... 22 kg overweight. Hard to believe. Obie is an extreme case but you can literally see his eyes light up and his personality shine when he loses weight. I found this to be a really heartwarming story and I wanted to share it with you so you can see for yourself. Dogs and cats definitely feel lethargic and depressed when they are overweight. Just the same as we do.
RISKS OF OBESITY
Obesity comes with a long list of health conditions as it continues to put their body in a constant state of inflammation and stress. Some of these include:
- Joint problems
- Breathing difficulties
- Easier to overheat on warm/hot days
- Strain on the heart
- Shortened life span
Food such as dairy products, pigs ears, dog rolls, and so much more, are very high in fat and should only ever be fed to your cat or dog on small amounts and as a treat or reward. And no... I don't mean after every time he looks at you with those beautiful brown eyes begging for some more because he is SOO STARVING! You need to be his self-control.
I don't actually recommend you feed highly processed products like dog rolls and anything including dairy products. Stick to natural and as close to its natural form as possible. I think we can both agree that there is nothing natural left in dog roll!
To recap... Feeding a larger meal in the morning and a smaller meal in the evening is ideal. Measure what you feed. Regularly weigh your pet and only feed a healthy treat once or twice a week. Exercise regularly.
All of these are the best way to get your pet to lose weight and maintain it for a longer happier and healthier life.