Pet column: Pet obesity mirrors child obesity |

Pet column: Pet obesity mirrors child obesity

Dawn Armstrong
Special to the Tribune

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention is asking veterinarians and pet owners to participate in an annual survey to determine the current status of overweight and obese pets. The research is being coordinated by Dr. Ernie Ward during the week of Oct. 7-14. Information and reporting forms are available on the APOP web site. All types of pets are included.

For the seventh year, APOP is sponsoring National Pet Obesity Awareness Day on Oct. 9. The lives of the country’s pets are being shortened and their susceptibility to related disease is being increased at an alarming rate, mirroring the status of obese American children. Ward feels “The causes of pet and childhood obesity are largely the same: too many high-calorie foods and snacks combined with too little physical activity. Parents need to encourage children to put down their video games and pick up the dog leash to go for a walk … share crunchy vegetables with your dog.” Pet obesity rates continue to increase with the number of overweight cats reaching an all-time high. Veterinarian reports from 2012 determined that 52.5 percent of dogs and 58.3 percent of cats seen are overweight or obese. About 80 million U.S. dogs and cats are too heavy to be healthy, with increased risk for weight-related disorders such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, hypertension and many cancers. Surgical specialist Dr. Steve Budsberg of the University of Georgia is particularly concerned about the development of weight-related musculoskeletal conditions. “Once again, our data shows that obesity is rampant and we are certainly setting up more and more dogs and cats for joint problems. This results in hundreds of millions of dollars in medical bills and countless surgical procedures for weight-related conditions.” Sadly 45 percent of pet owners were in denial when they visited their veterinarian. The caring clients were shocked to learn they were loving their pets to death. There are home assessments pet owners can use to determine if a pet is overweight and guidelines on how to trim him or her down. Time and patience are required to achieve results, but healthy fitness can be restored.

To determine if a pet is a healthy weight: ribs are easily felt, abdomen is tucked no stomach sagging; a “waist” is easily seen when looking at the pet from above. Signs of overweight are: difficult to feel the ribs under the fat layer; possible to grip the fat of a sagging stomach; broad, flat back with no waist when viewed from above. The APOP web site features Body Condition Score charts for cats and dogs from thin to obese. In addition, there are calorie count guidelines for average, lightly active adult spayed or neutered dogs or cats (1 to 7 years old receiving less than 30 minutes aerobic activity per day): 10-pound indoor cat 180-200 calories a day; 10 pound dog, 200-275 a day, 20 pounds, 325-400 per day, and at 50 pounds, 700-900 per day. Charts for ideal pet weight for specific breeds and types of cats and dogs are included.

“Lite” pet foods, wet and dry, are readily available to help reduce weight. Calories must be listed on the label if the brand is approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. Diet formulas can be mixed with regular food to decrease overall calories and slowly switched to 100 percent during the weight reduction period. Dr. Linder, head of the Tufts Obesity Clinic for Animals, advises that “the ideal diet for weight loss is low in calories but still has a high nutrient density.” There is a risk of nutrient deficiency if the amount given of a healthy maintenance food is simply cut back. A veterinarian should be consulted so that weight loss is not too rapid.

In addition to reducing veterinary costs for the avoidable consequences of packing on pet pounds, maintaining ideal weight adds almost three years to the time we have with our pets and assures they will have a comfortable, playful life.

— Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help “Keep Tahoe Kind”. Dawn Armstrong is the executive director.

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