Obese pets have become a growing problem in the US. Experts are calling the problem an epidemic as over 50 percent of pets are carrying unhealthy extra weight.
An annual survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention has revealed that 88.4 million pets are overweight or obese. The survey found that veterinarians classify 55 percent of cats and 53 percent of dogs as overweight.
As reported by the APOP, many pet owners are unaware that their pets are actually overweight. In what is referred to as the “fat pet gap,” many pet owners wrongly classify their pet’s weight as normal or healthy. Unfortunately this misconception can lead to bigger health problems for pets.
Like humans, obese pets can develop type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, which can shorten life expectancy. Other conditions, such as osteoarthritis, can be incredibly painful for dogs and cats.
Dr. Steve Budsberg, Director of Clinical Research, University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, blames irresponsible pet owners:
“The prevention of obesity needs to be at the forefront of all discussions people have about the health of their pet with their veterinarian … It is very frustrating to see how much pain and discomfort excess weight has on my patients … No animal goes to the refrigerator or the pantry and helps themselves. We enable our pets to get fat!”
Veterinarians suggest that pet treats have contributed to the growing problem of obese pets. Studies reveal that 95 percent of pet owners give their pets treats, which may contain significant calories.
As reported by CBS, pet owners should talk to their veterinarian to determine whether their pet is overweight. If a pet is determined to be overweight or obese several steps can be taken to help pets lose weight.
Pets should be monitored for food intake. Food should not be left out at all times, and pets should not have access to food that is not theirs. Carrots, apples, and lean poultry can be substituted for commercial treats.
It is recommended that pets get enough exercise. A “20-minute brisk walk” is suggested as a good guideline. Dogs suffering fro painful joints can swim as a “low-impact” form of exercise.
Veterinarians agree that preventing obesity in pets is much easier than addressing the issue after it becomes a serious problem.