Since 2007, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) annually surveys and reports their findings on the obesity statistics of the U.S. pet population. 2018, APOP reported 55% of dogs and 59% of cats were either classified as overweight or obese. That number had held relatively steady over the past five years.
We know pet parents aren’t doing this on purpose. Most people can’t tell if their dog or cat is overweight, especially on long hair or fluffier breeds.
One thing is for sure, being overweight can lead to a number of health problems that will not only shorten a pet’s life span but also affect their quality of life. Below are the more common ailments caused from being overweight or obese.
- Heart, respiratory, and kidney disease – Dogs that are considered to be overweight or obese run a higher risk of collapsing trachea or laryngeal paralysis. If left untreated, these conditions can cause a dog to go into respiratory distress.
- Arthritis – An overweight pet puts more pressure on joints causing the cartilage to wear down, thus leading to arthritis.
- Torn ACL – Increased weight on an ACL can be a cause of torn ACLs. In most cases, surgery is the recommended way to repair an injury like this.
- Tumors – Carrying around extra pounds increases benign fatty tumors, breast cancer, and bladder cancer, to name a few of the tumors.
- Skin diseases – Being overweight causes excess skin and skin folds to be created. Those skin folds can become irritated or infected with bacteria.
- Quality of Life – Pudgy pooches often are less active, have a hard time getting up and down, and can lose up to 2 years of their life. That’s a significant amount of time if you’re a Great Dane and your life span is 8 to 10 years. Even if you’re a Toy Poodle with a life span of 20 years, that is still 10% of your life.
The Economics of Obesity
It’s estimated that American pet parents spend upwards of 100+ million dollars in medical expenses that could have been avoided by helping your pets stay at an optimal weight. Imagine what owners could save by switch from human food treats to leaner dog treats. It’s financially worth serious consideration to make better nutrition and lifestyle decisions for your pet.
What You Can Do About Pet Obesity
The knee jerk reaction to help your pet lose weight is to decrease food, but too little food can be just as dangerous as too much food. Talk to your veterinarian about options to help your pooch shed the extra pounds. There are a lot of dog foods on the market that claim to help with weight loss, and it’s hard to tell what brands are reputable or misleading. Your veterinarian will better understand what your specific breed will need to lose extra pounds and help maintain its optimal weight.
Increase the amount of exercise your pet gets. This could mean longer walks or more walks during the day. You may also consider play dates with neighbor dogs or sending your dog to day camp for increased exercise and social time.
We know how hard it can be when those wide, pleading eyes are begging for some of your delicious crackers or pepperoni sticks, but a little tough love can go a long way to helping your pet live a better, healthier life.