Happy Sunday! I am enjoying a low-key day with the “kids”, Hope & Katie. Brian left early this morning for a business trip. As a vet I see a lot of pets come into the office that are obese. It has become an “alarming” problem especially in the last few years. As the number of Americans who are overweight has grown, studies show that they have gained some four-legged company. About half of all dogs and cats in American homes are overweight or obese, up slightly from 2010, according to a recent study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. In a nation of 170 million pets, many of them as beloved as children, that means that roughly 85 million are carrying too much weight. And many pet owners are finding that the extra pounds on a pudgy cat or dog can lead to severe – and costly – health problems.
Dogs and cats can get diabetes and heart disease just like people and as these diseases are more common in people who are obese, these diseases also are more common in overweight animals. Heavy dogs also face heightened and cancer risks, Ward says. About 44% of dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese, according to statistics from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention web site. The average cost of veterinary care for a diabetic dog or cat in 2011 was more than $900, according to Petplan USA, a pet insurance company. Treatment for arthritis and cruciate ligament tears, which can be caused by the strain of an overweight frame that weakens joints, especially in dogs can very expensive as well.
Some of the most popular breeds – golden retrievers, German shepherds, Yorkshire terriers – are susceptible to orthopedic problems for genetic reasons, but these problems occur earlier and more severely with pets that are overweight. I have seen see dogs that are rendered practically immobile by a combination of weight and joint or bone issues. This is a serious issue!
Many people love to lavish food treats on their dogs: bacon and cheese snacks, pig ears, and an endless stream of table scraps. But all those indulgences come at a hefty price. Even a single, high-calorie treat — such as packaged beef, bacon, or cheese snacks — can fill, as much as one-fifth to one-fourth of a small dog’s daily calorie needs.
If you are concerned about your pet’s weight, please discuss with your family veterinarian. Just as with us, having a plan of action is essential. Losing weight too quickly can lead to other serious health problem (i.e. hepatic lipidosis in cats) so working on a plan and following it through is the way to be successful. There are special diets that help as well which can be discussed with your vernaraian.
The one thing I tell owners is that dogs do not know what is a “treat” and what is not. I have had owners divide the normal food amount for the day and allocate some of it as “treats”. It’s a win/win as the dog or cat feels they are getting a “special treat” and owners get to have that special time with their pet without putting their health at risk. You need to factor treats into your pet’s overall caloric intake. “A general recommendation is that treats should not make up more than 15% to 20% of the pet’s total diet and this rule holds for commercial treats or people food, according to Dr. Sarah Abood, who is an assistant professor of small animal clinical sciences at the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Here are some healthy treat alternatives for dogs listed below. I will post about cats in a later post!
- Baby Carrots- Dogs love the crunch. Hope really enjoys them!
- Dried chicken strips- a better, low-fat choice than some of the heavily processed, high-fat snacks
- Green beans
- Squash, zucchini
- Cooked yams
- Small chunks of apples and watermelon frozen into ice cubes
**AVOID: Garlic, grapes, raisins, fruits with pits, avocado, nuts, mushrooms, which are toxic to dogs.**
If you dogs gets “bored” easily you can place a few healthy treats inside a rubber Kong dog toy, which makes the pet work harder to dislodge snacks with its tongue.
I look forward to providing more treat ideas, pet tips, etc! Let me know what you want to know- comment below!