October 10, 2018 is designated Pet Obesity Awareness Day by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). The association was founded in 2005 by veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward and he and his team have spent these intervening years studying pet obesity in the United States.
The stated mission of APOP is developing and promoting parallel weight loss programs designed to help pet owners safely and effectively lose weight alongside their pets. The idea is that you help each other stay fit and trim.
Unfortunately, Dr. Ward and his team confirmed in their 2017 study that pet obesity has grown to epidemic proportions with 56% of dogs and 60% of cats classified as overweight or obese by their veterinarians. Those figures have been climbing over the years as you can see from the chart below.
It’s not just the United states that has a pet obesity problem. A recent international survey by MarsPetcare in five countries (China, Russia, Brazil, United State and United Kingdom) found similar results, estimating 59 percent of dogs and 52 percent of cats are overweight.
You may think that having a flabby tabby or a fat fido isn’t a big deal, so what if they have a few extra pounds on them. But just as with humans, every extra pound carries additional health risks for your pet. A lifetime study of Labrador Retrievers on the effects of extra weight showed that dogs at a proper weight live up to two years longer than their siblings that were 15% overweight or more. (1.) Our pets have such short lifespans to begin with, don’t we want them to live as long as possible?
In addition, these leaner dogs showed a marked delay in the onset of other weight related conditions such as:
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Increased risk of orthopedic issues
- Increased risk of diabetes
- Increased gastrointestinal issues
- Linked to chronic inflammation and increased risk of cancer
It’s not only their lifespan that is affected, your pocket book is too. A 2016 study by Nationwide Insurance, a provider of pet insurance, found pet obesity translates to increased veterinary costs. Over the prior 4 years, pet obesity related claims have increased over 24% to 1.4 million claims and a total annual cost of $62 million. That’s nice for the veterinarian’s business, but certainly not great for your budget.
If we put those costs into terms you can relate to – a single treatment for a bladder or urinary tract infection for your cat costs an estimated $434 and a simple arthritis treatment for your dog? $310. That adds up quickly if your overweight pet develops a chronic condition and none of us want to skimp on proper health care treatment for our pets.
What is a loving pet owner to do? Come back to our blog on ___ for Part II of our post on Pet Obesity Awareness and we will identify feeding behaviors you, as a responsible pet owner, might want to change, and offer some tips on helping your pet shed those extra pounds.
1. Effects of diet restriction on life span and age-related changes in dogs. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11991408