Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pet Obesity Problem Keeps Expanding

Example of what not to do

The number of pets diagnosed as overweight continues to expand according to the fifth annual survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP).  The study found 53 percent of adult dogs and 55 percent of cats to be classified as overweight or obese by their veterinarian. That equals 88.4 million pets that are too heavy.

The interesting finding in the survey showed that only 22 percent of dog owners and 15 percent of cat owners characterized their pet as normal weight when it was actually overweight or obese. APOP founder Dr.Ernie Ward refers to this phenomenon as the "fat pet gap” or the normalization of obesity by pet parents. In simplest terms, we’ve made fat pets the new normal.

The causes for overweight pets are the same as in humans, too much food and too little activity. While those two factors are easy to understand, many owners may not realize the severe, and costly, health problems caused or made worse by excess weight. Common woes include diabetes, arthritis, kidney failure, high blood pressure and cancer. Research also shows that pets fed less over their lifetime can live significantly longer. At pet insurance company, Petplan USA, five of the top claims all have a close correlation to obesity.

There are roadblocks to efforts to get a handle on this problem;

1) Perception.  As mentioned by Dr. Ward, many owners don’t believe the clinical reality.

2) Information. Pet food makers aren't required to list caloric content on labels unless the product bills itself as low calorie; also, feeding directions on bags are listed for the "most demanding" life stage and can overfeed for a less active pet.

3) Exercise. Large breed dogs like Labradors and German shepherds need 30 to 60 minutes of active play daily, or two to three miles of walking. Smaller breeds still require about 15 to 30 minutes of play, while cats benefit from short five- to 15-minute bursts of activity like chasing toys.

What to do: Start by looking at your pet and what you feed your pet. Go to for a visual chart of what your pet should look like. Make sure you are not feeding your pet more than 1 (measuring) cup of food per 20 lbs. of weight per day. This is just a general guideline we use at All Creatures so then, consult with us or your veterinarian about the specific diet and activity needs of your pet. If you have questions, call us to set up a free Pet Diet Consult.


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