Pet obesity in the U.S. increased last year, affecting 60% of cats and 56% of dogs, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). In its tenth annual survey, pet parents and veterinary professionals were questioned about pet obesity, diet and nutrition, and sources of pet food advice. While no one is on the same page when it comes to pet food issues, one thing is clear – our pets are getting fatter and we can help them.
More pets are being diagnosed with obesity and are being affected by more secondary conditions, such as arthritis, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and certain forms of cancer. Pets with obesity also have reduced quality of life and shorter life expectancy. So where’s the disconnect? Here are the numbers from the APOP survey.
- 56% of dogs and 60% of cats were classified as overweight – that’s 50.2 million dogs and 56.5 million cats.
- 58% of pet owners and 54% of veterinary professionals reported they had tried to help their own pet lose weight.
- Most common response as to why? “Too busy.” Other responses included behavior issues, inadequate access to exercise areas, and physical limitations of owner and pet.
- 48% of pet owners said their veterinarian failed to recommend a diet for their pet and 15% commented that they “had to ask” first. 50% of surveyed veterinary professionals said they offered recommendations.
- 63% of pet owners and 76% of veterinary professionals reported pet food is “better” than before.
- 65% of pet owners and 67% of veterinary professionals agreed “human food” was not a good idea.
So, now what?
The APOP recommends four steps to combating pet obesity.
Recognize – compare your pet’s current weight to its weight during your last veterinary visit. Most vets will be happy to weigh your dog or cat at no charge on special animal-accurate scales. If you don’t have access to your vet, try the “rib check.” You should be able to easily feel your pet’s ribs under a thin layer of skin.
Recommend – because weight loss should be addressed as any other medical condition, history, diagnostic tests, treatment, and follow-up care are essential. Weight loss starts by adjusting daily calories and your veterinarian should be able to make solid recommendations. We should also develop a daily exercise routine, for us and our pet.
Rejuvenate – obesity steals the joy of living, but weight loss done correctly changes lives. Helping a pet lose weight will present challenges along the way; however, the gains are simply too good to resist. (Part of rejuvenation is enjoying the occasional, healthy treat.)
Remember – weight loss isn’t a single battle; it’s a lifelong war. Follow-up care with your veterinarian is essential for sustained success. The APOP recommends tracking your pet’s weight every one to three months. The goal is to change your lifestyle so that an active, healthy lifestyle becomes normal.