A hot topic at the moment, pet obesity is on the rise! We’re all prone to giving one or two extra treats, which is fine, but there has to be a limit or you could be doing untold damage to your pet’s health.
Dog and Cat Obesity
It’s fun to laugh and coo over pictures of portly pets on the internet, but the sad reality is that obesity is as much of a health risk for pets as it is for humans. Most of us understand our own dietary needs, but we’re in the dark as to how pet nutrition works. On a steady diet of table scraps and a bowl of dry food always down for the picking, nearly 100-million pets or more in the US have become obese.
Just like humans, pets can suffer from heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and even cancers associated with obesity. An extra pound may not be so bad on a human, but it’s huge on a small animal. Imagine the weight of four sticks of butter piled onto your pet’s back for every extra pound of weight they carry. It adds up quickly and taxes every body system. Obesity can cut 2-1/2 years off of your pet’s life expectancy.
A fundamental contributor to the pet obesity problem is not understanding how much our pets actually need to eat. An average dog will act starving even after having gorged himself nearly sick. Cats will often have a little more discretion when it comes to overeating, but even Puss can get pudgy. In fact, cats are more likely to be obese than dogs. 22% of cats in the United States are obese versus 20% of dogs.
Many products now advertise their calorie counts, but it isn’t helpful if you don’t know your pet’s needs. 45 calories a treat may sound like an invitation to give your pet a heaping handful of snacks, but for a little Yorkshire terrier, four treats is their entire daily calorie need. Our graphic can give you an idea of the caloric needs of different pet breeds.
Certain dog breeds, like the corgi, may even have a genetic predisposition to overeating. In the case of the corgi, their ancestors out in the pastures never knew when their next meal was coming. The ones that ate everything they could when they had the chance were more likely to survive. Now, even though your stubby-legged friend gets daily meals, his genetics don’t tell him to stop when he’s full.
Furthermore, the ingredients in your pet’s food can have a huge impact on weight. Half a can of one brand may have a very different calorie count than another. Pet treats are often loaded with sugary fillers that aren’t filling and offer nothing nutritionally. Think of them as pet candy bars. Consider what table scraps you toss down, too. That steak gristle is pure fat.
If your pet is packing on the pounds, talk to your veterinarian about a healthy weight loss regimen. Obese cats needs special care to avoid fatty liver syndrome, and all pets still need proper nutrition as the calories are scaled back. You are in control of your pet’s diet, and simple changes can vastly improve your pet’s quality of life for years to come.