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Tuesday, June 17, 2008
The Fight Against Animal Obesity

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By Grace Chen

While a good portion of the American human population is overweight or obese, the problem doesn’t stop with our species. More and more, pets are also battling the bulge, and this is leading to health problems and large vet bills.

Health Concerns From Pet Obesity

Tired Dog

Just as it impacts people, obesity in pets causes several additional problems beyond simply having a few extra pounds to lug around. Obese pets can suffer from diabetes, heart disease, respiratory problems, joint problems, skin conditions, and even higher rates of cancer than their healthy counterparts. Overweight pets also have a shorter life expectancy.

Dogs are the biggest offender when it comes to weight problems, as they seem to have a harder time regulating their own weight than cats do. Part of this comes from their owners over-feeding them; many pet owners try to feed all dogs the same amount, regardless of size and activity levels. Part of this may be because many pet owners think that their pets are simply pleasingly plump. Whereas a large percent of vets feel their canine patients are overweight, only a small percentage of the dog owners agree.

The Rising Cost of Obesity

Besides the obvious increase in food costs that feeding an obese pet causes, the cost of veterinary treatment for obese pets can also be a blow to your wallet. Besides the typical annual vet visits, obese pets tend to need more medical treatments than healthy pets and rack up higher bills. Some medical conditions require constant monitoring and even medications; yet these diseases, such as diabetes, can often be prevented just by keeping your pet at a healthy weight.

How To Tell If Your Pet is Overweight

Just like with people, there is no one weight that every pet should strive for – body and breed type play a role. However, there are some signs that you can check for to see if your pet is overweight. If you have any concerns, you should talk to your vet. Your pet may be overweight if you see any of these characteristics:

  • You cannot feel the ribs without pressing.

  • You do not see a noticeable waist when you look at your pet from above.

  • You do not see a “tuck” at the bottom of the ribcage when looking at your pet from the side.

How To Keep Your Pet From Becoming Obese

The majority of pet weight problems come from overeating and/or a lack of exercise. Many pet owners equate food with love. Even worse, these treats are often table scraps that are high in calories and low in nutritional value.

Pets should not be just thrown into a weight loss diet. Start with a visit to your vet to make sure that there are no underlying health concerns that could be contributing to the weight problem. Your vet will be able to recommend a food to use, as well as the amount that you should be feeding your pet. Your vet will also be able to recommend activities that your pet can participate in to help burn more calories and that are appropriate to your pet’s age and health.

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