Addressing America's 2nd obesity epidemic: Here's how to keep your pet healthy
More than half of all adult dogs seen at Banfield’s more than 1,000 hospitals in 2019 were considered overweight or obese. Following their diagnosis, fewer than 10% of those pets lost weight, and of those, roughly 40% gained it back within 12 months.
But why does it matter if Fido’s a little chubby? You want to show your love, so you feed him more treats.
Sure, a chubby Corgi may look cute as they waddle down the sidewalk, but obesity in dogs is extremely dangerous and can contribute to many different health issues, such as:
Decreased immune function
Urinary bladder stones
A shorter life
Even moderately overweight pets have a reduced life expectancy by nearly two years compared with their leaner counterparts. Dogs and cats are considered overweight if they are at least 10% to 20% heavier than their ideal weight.
As a society, we have become desensitized to obesity in dogs and cats. We are so used to seeing bigger pets that we don’t know what a healthy weight looks like anymore. Thus, the best way to determine if your pet is a healthy weight is to have them examined by a veterinarian, who will score your pet’s body condition from 1 (emaciated) to 10 (obese). However, there are ways you can check your pet yourself.
SPCA pet adoptionsJust a bunch of cuddlers and lovers looking for homes
You've made your New Year's resolutionsDo they include your pet's health?
Weathering the coldMake sure your pets have what they need
No matter what breed your dog is, you should:
Be able to feel all your dog’s ribs without a thick layer of fat over them.
See that your dog’s chest is wider than his abdomen; a dog that is the same size all the way down is overweight.
Note regular breathing (no excessive panting) and activity level (no laziness).
If you’ve just noticed you can’t feel your dog’s ribs — or their body is shaped like a potato — what steps can you take to give your best friend a longer, happier life?
Measure how much your pet eats. If you typically just “keep the bowl full” and your pet is getting a bit tubby, try feeding at specific times of the day, and only feed as much as your vet recommends.
There are also many ways to exercise your pet that don’t require leashing up or exercising yourself. For example, you could play fetch for 15 minutes, twice a day, or have them chase a laser pointer. In the summer months, try taking your dog for a swim.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle for your pet is an essential part of responsible pet ownership. Besides the fact that you’ll save money on vet bills, being with your pet for as long as his body will allow is priceless.
Dr. Mitsie Vargas is at Orchid Springs Animal Hospital in Winter Haven. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on The Ledger: Fight America's second obesity epidemic by watching your pet's weight