Friday, April 24, 2009

Overweight pet? Awareness doesn't solve the problem, action does

Petfood, an on-line community for Pet Food Professionals recently reported of a story coming from the UK. Reason for me addressing the issue here at the blog is because I am convinced that the problem here in the States is very similar and certainly has to be of concern to every pet owner. But why not let the numbers speak for themselves; According to the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) and their press release published in February 09, the latest stats reveal:
“Nationwide study finds half of dogs and cats now overweight or obese, an increase from 2007*
In the US, over 44% of dogs and 57% of cats are now estimated to be overweight or obese according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). The second annual National Pet Obesity Day Study conducted in October, 2008, found that from 2007 to 2008, the number of overweight dogs and cats increased by 1% and 4%, respectively.
"Pet obesity continues to emerge as a leading cause of preventable disease and death in dogs and cats. Our pets are in real danger of not living as long as previous generations and developing serious and costly diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, and other largely avoidable conditions,” states lead researcher Dr. Ernie Ward.
Obesity rates in cats were highest at 17.8%; dogs were slightly better with 9.6% classified as obese. Approximately 39.6% of all cats and 34.7% of dogs were classified as overweight by a veterinary healthcare provider.
According to the study, 7.2 million dogs are estimated to be obese and 26 million overweight. The number in cats is higher, with 15.7 million estimated to be obese and 35 million overweight.
"These numbers, 33 million dogs and 51 million cats that are overweight, represent a huge problem for everyone. Excess weight causes or contributes to many painful and debilitating conditions. Just as we’ve become a nation of couch potatoes, our pets have become a nation of lap potatoes—and that’s not good for anyone,” replies Dr. Ward.
Older animals had a higher incidence of being overweight; 52.1% of dogs and 55% of cats over age seven were found to be overweight or obese.
“This is a particularly concerning discovery for veterinarians. Extra pounds in older pets amplify any pre-existing conditions and complicate treatment. We’re seeing more and more diabetes, respiratory, and arthritic conditions in older pets as a direct result of obesity. These are often chronic, incurable, and generally preventable diseases. Pet owners need to understand that a few extra pounds on a dog or cat is similar to a person being 30 to 50 pounds overweight,” says Dr. Ward.
Pet owners with heavy pets accurately reported their pet’s weight status when asked by veterinary healthcare providers; 71.5% of owners with overweight or obese cats identified their cat as overweight or obese, and 60% of dog owners agreed with their veterinarian’s assessment of their dog’s weight. “This tells me pet owners know their pet is too heavy. It’s up to veterinarians to help pet lovers get their pet back to a healthy weight,” responds Dr. Ward.
Smaller breeds of dogs had more trouble with their weight than larger breeds. Breeds such as Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, and Yorkshire terriers were more likely to be classified as overweight than Labrador retrievers, Golden retrievers, or German shepherds.
“Smaller, indoor-only dogs tend to have more trouble maintaining a healthy weight because they don’t get adequate exercise. Unfortunately, these are also the dogs we’re seeing a high number of weight-related disorders in,” says Ward.
The second National Pet Obesity Awareness Day study was conducted using data collected by 95 US veterinary clinics in October, 2008. In all, 669 dogs aged 1 to 16 and 202 cats aged 1 to 19 were evaluated. Approximately 10% of dogs were classified as obese and 35% as overweight. Approximately 18% of all cats were rated as obese and 40% as overweight.”
Now “ Nine out of 10 UK pet owners are unconcerned coming back to the UK story, reported under
“UK owners ‘unconcerned at fat pets" that Nine out of 10 pet-owners are unconcerned about their animals' size despite an increase in overweight pets, a survey suggests.
Some 62% of dog-owners and 72% of cat-owners believed they could do little or nothing about their pets' weight.
More than 2,100 UK households were surveyed on behalf of the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association (PFMA).
A report by the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals in 2008 claimed one in three UK dogs was overweight.
However, in the TNS survey for the PFMA, eight out of 10 owners believed their pet was the correct weight.
But when shown pictures of animals of varying weights, just 33% of dog-owners and 23% of cat-owners said their animal resembled the "normal weight" image.
PFMA chief executive Michael Bellingham said perceptions of pets' correct size were "seriously out of kilter with reality".
"Pet obesity has a serious, and sometimes fatal, impact on the health and welfare of our pets.
"The figures are alarming and the problem won't go away without a fundamental shift in owners' attitude to feeding their pets," he said.
"It is also worrying that most owners are not aware of the problem, because they are unable to recognize a fat pet in the first place.
More than a third of owners who admitted having an overweight pet said they fed it too many treats, while a similar proportion blamed lack of exercise.
Only a quarter of respondents said they had ever sought advice on their pets' weight.”

So it seems like pet owners (of obese pets) here in the States are definitely better informed about their problems since they apparently at large (60% for dogs, 71.5% for cats) recognize that their pet is overweight.

But recognizing the problem itself doesn’t do the trick. Now the blaming game kicks in. In my opinion the answer to where to look for blame is simple: I am sorry my friends for being once again so frank and loud and clear, but it is mainly you, the owner of the obese pet. To blame a pet food manufacturer on wrong feeding tables is nonsense. The pet is being fed by its owner. And who can better observe the weight development? I rest my case. Who is feeding junk food in between meals? Who is providing fattening treats too often? 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.

Neither is anybody else to blame for not making sure that the pet gets sufficient exercise. See also my blog comment
Pet obesity - a pet owners' problem”. This is not beating a dead horse, pet obesity is a serious problem. The common health risks of obesity in pets include: Osteoarthritis, Type 2 Diabetes, respiratory disorders, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease and many forms of cancer.

Don’t let any of this happening to your pet. Following are 4 basic considerations to control your pet's weight:

Choice of diet: For example, all food products offered at our on-line store, whether they are for your dog or for your cat, raw, freeze dried, dry or canned, are serious alternatives available to you. We carefully select our suppliers based on their credibility and motives. We offer 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. A good solution for home made meals are our 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 our on-line 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. We offer many of them at our store. However, most of the ones we offer for dogs and cats are not just all about fun. They are functional, 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. Stores like ours can help you by providing products, which are designed and have proven to be supportive of obesity prevention. Imperative to my objectives is also that I provide in-depth information on effective holistic, healthy nutrition. My goal is contributing to your pet's health and vitality by educating you. With the help of the information provided by myself 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.
Downloadable version)
For healthy guidelines download the
helpful fact sheet: Weight, calories & your pet” by APOP
Download the Junk food calorie list by APOP
Visit Association for Pet Obesity Prevention

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