Many pet owners would never intentionally harm their companion animals. In fact, pet owners often go above and beyond to ensure their animals are well cared for and content, from gourmet pet food to maintaining a full toy box full of goodies for them to explore. Many well-meaning people, however, may be inadvertently harming their pets with something they provide each and every day: food.
Obesity is on the rise among pets. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention says that 54 percent of dogs and 59 percent of cats in the United States were categorized as overweight or obese in 2016. That marks an increase from 52.5 percent and 58.3 percent, respectively, from four years ago. The majority of veterinarians think that pet obesity is a significant problem and nearly half of pet owners admit that their vets have discussed a pet's ideal weight with them during pet health visits.
Weight and Appearance
Body weights for pets are based on breed ideals and may not necessarily apply to dogs and cats of mixed breeds. For example, a golden retriever should weigh between 65 and 75 pounds. A domestic cat should weigh between eight and 10 pounds. But vets will consider a host of variables to determine if a given pet is a healthy weight. Vets advise that dog owners should be able to easily feel and count dogs' ribs when they run their fingers across the side of the animal. Pets viewed from above should display an hourglass figure that includes an indentation near the midsection. The absence of this "waist" may indicate a problem. When observing a pet from the side while he or she is standing, a slight upward slope of the stomach should be visible. A low-hanging abdomen means abdominal fat may be present.
Health Problems & Weight
The Purina Pet Care Center found that overweight pets may live two years less than ideal weight pets. Reduced life span is not the only problem, as carrying extra pounds can contribute to various maladies. These include osteoarthritis and poor joint health, type 2 diabetes, ligament injuries, heart and respiratory disease, kidney disease and cancer.
Exercise & Food
Just like humans, pets need a combination of physical activity and caloric moderation to maintain healthy weights. Daily caloric needs for indoor cats range from 180 to 200 calories per day. The larger a dog is, the more calories it needs. Pet owners should work with their veterinarians to map out a diet and exercise regimen that can help their overweight pets shed pounds. Vets also can help determine if weight gain is due to illness or food habits. Pets need to maintain healthy diets and engage in exercise to maintain ideal body weights that will keep them healthy for years to come.