As human obesity increases, pet obesity is increasing as well. The Veterinary world figured out that the epidemic in pets is connected to their owners because the bond between the two is so close.
Professor Michael Day is the chair of the One Health Committee established by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA). He says, “The importance of studying the human-animal bond is justified by reference to the benefit to human health and well-being from association with pet animals. One of the key issues is obesity. Probably the most important health issue of man and pets in Western countries is the shared epidemic of obesity that is often directly related to aspects of this shared lifestyle. We cannot hope to understand feline and canine obesity without also knowing something about human obesity, the social status of owners, and the relationships that humans actually have with their dogs and cats.”
According to the Veterinary Record, in dogs and cats, as in people, a distinction is drawn between being overweight and being obese. Being overweight can be defined as having a body composition where the levels of body fat exceed those considered optimal for good health. Obesity can be defined as being overweight to the extent that serious effects on an individual’s health become likely.
In humans, the Body Mass Index (BMI) is widely used as an assessment tool. However, it is solely based on a person’s weight and height, which is not transferable to assessing dogs and cats because of diverse breeds and body compositions. Therefore, the Body Condition Scores (BCSs) was developed for both dogs and cats, which utilizes several categories, ranging from emaciated to severely obese, based on specific physical features.
Canine obesity studies in North America, Europe and Australia revealed that 22% to 44% of pet dogs are clinically obese. Although human obesity is caused by many factors such as psychological and social problems like depression and anxiety, canine and feline obesity is not suspected to be caused by the same issues.
Studies show that some dog and cat breeds have a higher likelihood of becoming overweight or obese. However, what humans and dogs and cats have in common is that higher levels of obesity occur from over-eating and lack of exercise. The results are also similar, which are lack of energy and higher chances of diabetes and cardiorespiratory disease. Dogs and cats can also develop orthopedic and dermatological diseases, circulation issues, urinary and reproductive disorders, neoplasia and complications when under anesthesia.
So, how do you determine whether or not your pet is obese? Take him/her to the vet and have an assessment done.
How do your solve the problem of your pet being overweight or obese? There are many strategies to try. Pub Med on NCBI online states, “Pet owner commitment, a proper feeding plan and regular monitoring are the keys to a successful weight loss program. Treatment of obesity involves caloric restriction and/or a diet change….the diet choice should be tailored to the individual patient. Appropriate feeding management is equally important.”
Maze bowls are widely used by dog owners these days, which forces the dog to eat slower because he/she has to work to get the food out of the bowl. Also, smaller, controlled portions are very effective, which means you never leave the food bowl on the floor for random grazing. Low calorie, high fiber, moderate to high protein, low sugar diets are the healthy route and cut down on excessive fat gain.
Studies also show that many pet owners use food to communicate with their pet. Using other ways to engage your dog or cat, instead of using food, is much healthier for them. Outdoor activities such as longer walks and extensive playtime are important in helping your dog get fit and stay fit. For cats, carpeted towers, tunnel toys or wall shelving specifically installed for cats to walk around on, provide an answer to an otherwise, lethargic indoor life.
Making healthier choices for your canine and feline kids adds more years to their lives, which adds more happy companionship for you!
Love your pets with no regrets!
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