Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Are we feeding our pets to death?

An alarming number of 54 Million obese pets live in the United States. That is 40% of the pet population! Obesity is when your pet exceeds its ideal body weight by 15 or more percent. Female pets are more prone to obesity then their male counter parts.
Why is there an obesity problem? One of the biggest feeding mistakes pet owners make is portion control. For example, to a 20 Lbs. dog, 1 ounce of Cheddar Cheese is like a human eating 2 hamburgers or chocolate bars. Or, a cup of milk to a 10 Lbs. cat is like you eating 5 hamburgers or 5 chocolate bars.
Recent weight management studies concluded that compared with cats of optimal weight, overweight cats are more than twice as likely to develop skin conditions, 4 times as likely to develop diabetes and finally 5 times as likely to develop lameness, all conditions requiring veterinarian treatment. Overweight leaves pets at a greater risk than ever before for type-2-diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, many forms of cancer, especially intra-abdominal cancer, osteoarthritis and potentially a shorter life expectancy.
42% of dog owners share people food with their dogs and more than 70% provide some sort of treat regimen. Too many dog owners use food as a primary way to show their affection.
Last year's pet food recalls caused many pet owners to prepare their own, home made diets. Unfortunately these meals often lack the nutritional values needed by our pets. They often contain excessive salt, sugar, fat and cholesterol. They are high calorie meals. Combined with table scraps, excessive treats and a lack of exercise, they certainly make an impact on the growing pet obesity epidemic.
Following are 4 basic considerations to control your pet's weight:
Choice of diet: For example, all, truly natural food products available to you, whether they are for your dog or for your cat, raw, freeze dried, dry or canned, are serious alternatives. Carefully select your suppliers based on their credibility and motives. Look for places offering a wide spectrum of products so that you can provide variety to your pet. A rotation diet consisting of more meat protein and less grain fosters biologically appropriate weight control. Lean feeding leads to less obesity. An example of a good solution for home made meals are Sojos Food Mixes. Made by experienced experts they are a safe base and with their nutritional value offer many benefits, one of them being balanced weight.
Portion control: Don't listen too much to your pet. Many of them don't know how much is good for them and when to stop. Follow the manufacturer's feeding guide lines available within product descriptions or on the back of each package. Consider lifestyle, activity level and medical conditions of your pet. Important: These guide lines usually refer to the "ideal body weight" of your pet, i.e. what your pet should weigh rather than what it weighs actually. Not keeping this in mind can lead to constant "over" feeding. Example: If your cat weighs 15 Lbs. and is 20% overweight, give her only as much as the manufacturer recommends for a 12.5 Lbs. cat.
Controlled "Treat"ments: Treats are great rewards and training aids. Your choice is seemingly endless. Make sure the treats you offer to your pet are not just all about fun. Look for functional treats, meaning they are made using healthy and palatable main ingredients providing many health benefits. As wellness products they are supplementing your healthy food. "Treat" treats as what they are: They are not a food item. Dogs appreciate a thumb nail sized bite as much as they like a 2 Lbs. bag of biscuits, the latter not being helpful in you solving your pet's obesity problem. As with everything in life, remember the word "moderation".
Regular exercise: The best thing to do is asking your vet about the ideal exercise program for your pet. Following are just a few ideas to inspire your creativity. Change your walk with your dog into intervals of jogging and running. Cut down on the typical every 2 minute sniffing and marking breaks. Change the pace from 20 to 25 minutes a mile to 12 to 15 minutes. Don't worry, dogs are built to run anywhere between 0 and 100 miles an hour with a very little risk of injury. After all, you're not doing an all-out sprint. Be consistent. Let the dog know you're not on a stroll and have other places to go too.
Move the food bowl as far away as possible to force the dog to walk. Don't let them sleep right next to their food.
Play, chase, fetch, catch. Combine exercise with play time, for example check out this link on the Dog Channel: "Fun Backyard Games With Your Dog" by Cathy M.Rosenthal. Get moving toys. Get busy. And do it regularly. Use your fantasy and be creative. And remember, to your dog what's fun today may be boring tomorrow, so be innovative as well.
Remember, pet obesity is not an animal problem, it is a human problem. When feeding your pet, look for products, which are designed and have proven to be supportive of obesity prevention. Imperative to your objectives is also that your pet food source provides in-depth information on effective holistic, healthy nutrition. Contributing to your pet's health and vitality requires self education. With the help of the information provided by people like us and others in the field, you will be able to make the right and correct, healthy and informed decisions on behalf of your pet. After all: All we want to do is help our beloved pets to live a longer, healthier and happier life. If you want to read more on this topic I recommend the APOP (Association for Pet Obesity Awareness) website as being very informative. It provides in-depth details as well as many downloadable tools such as for example caloric needs tables, ideal weight tables and much more, all in PDF format and best of all, it's free.

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