“Show me your friends and I’ll show you who you’ll become” is a proverb often quoted. The same can be said for your dog. Think not? The news is filled with reports about people struggling against the battle of the bulge, but it’s not just people who are struggling. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 52.5 percent of dogs were overweight or obese as determined by veterinarians in their 2012 survey.
Pets are mirroring our own weight gain, and inheriting the heath disorders that often accompany increased weight including diabetes, osteoarthritis, hypertension and many cancers. Not only are they mirroring our weight gain, they are also inheriting the associated health disorders that accompany increased weight including diabetes, osteoarthritis, hypertension and many cancers.
We should all be alarmed. A portly pup may SEEM cute, but there are costs and medical problems attached to those pounds and that is no laughing matter. According to independent studies, the average cost of care for a diabetic dog is about $125.00/month. What does that cover? Typically a diabetic dog will require testing supplies, insulin and special foods. These, in addition to the added vet visits needed to monitor the condition can quickly add up. And this is just ONE of the obesity-related medical problems. Torn ligaments and arthritis treatments due to heavier frames average around $2,000 a year.
Undoubtedly there are a number of factors that contribute to obesity. Decreased daily exercise or overfeeding are the most common. Want to show your dog how much you love them? Snacks and treats are not the only way to do that as they only contribute to the excess caloric intake.
How do pet’s get obese? Here are some factors:
- Easy access to food. Do you feed your pet OR the bowl?
- Energy dense, palatable food
- Multiple pets in the house. When there is competition in the house, pet’s may compete for the food bowl OR the human attention. This can promote begging behavior and/or overeating.
- Spraying or neutering. Preventing weight gain after having your pets sprayed or neutered is MUCH easier that losing the weight after it is gained.
- Genetics – some breeds are predisposed to excessive weight gain, such as Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, Beagles, etc.
So what can you do? Before you decide to start your own Let’s Move campaign, be aware that getting in shape can be risky without some supervision. Exercise and dietary changes need to be introduced gradually to prevent ligament tears in joints that are already stressed, as well as minimize stomach distress. Where do you start?
- Set realistic goals Set a goal to reduce their weight by 10% over 5-to 10 weeks. That should result in a consistent weight loss of 1-2% per week. It will mean success without starvation. (Jack B is a tremendous success story. He’s looking better each and every day)
- Increase their exercise. Pets need exercise just like people do. Increase their exercise to help build lean muscles that help to burn calories.
- Feed multiple, smaller meals. Divide your dog’s meals into 3 meals daily to help them feel fuller (satisfied) and prevent begging behaviors. Using hunt/capture toys that they have to roll in order to release a kibble is a good way to reward some increased activity.
- Eliminate the treats. Your pet’s behaviors aren’t the only ones that need changing. Some human behaviors need to be addressed. Avoid table scraps and don’t have your dog eat with you. (Pet’s who are allowed in the kitchen when people eat are more likely to be overweight.
Who knows? Helping our pets live a healthier lifestyle may be just the boost to inspire our own journey towards health as well.