(PET HEALTH/PET CARE) Obesity is not only a problem with humans, but it’s also a very serious problem for cats and dogs. Reports show that over 50 percent of household animals are classified as overweight or obese.

Not only do obese animals have a higher risk of serious health conditions such as heart disease and joint problems, but they also have a shorter life expectancy. Continue reading to learn more about these associated health risks, and for tips on how you can help your furry companion get healthy. — Global Animal

More than 50 percent of pets in the U.S. are considered overweight or obese. Photo Credit: PSDA
More than 50 percent of pets in the U.S. are considered overweight or obese. Photo Credit: PSDA


The Growing Problem of Overweight Pets 

Humans aren’t the only ones dealing with weight issues with more than one-third of U.S. adults reportedly obese according to the Journal of American Medical Association(JAMA). Excess weight is an extremely common problem among cats and dogs too. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), reports over 50% of pets in the United States are overweight or obese. Education is extremely important when it comes to reducing the problem of overweight pets, and recognition and action from pet owners makes all the difference when helping pets live healthy, active, and happy lives.

Overweight pets are at an elevated risk of developing a number of additional serious health conditions. APOP found that as few as two pounds above your cat’s ideal weight, and five pounds above your dog’s can put them at risk for developing serious medical conditions including diabetes, respiratory and heart disease, joint problems, and a shorter life expectancy by up to 2.5 years.

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Check out these tips on how to keep your pet healthy. Photo Credit: Trupanion.com

Trupanion, a medical insurance provider for cats and dogs, found that pet owners with overweight pets spend as much as five times more in veterinary expenses than pet owners with average-sized pets on many serious conditions related to excess weight such as musculoskeletal ailments like cruciate ruptures, lameness and limping. Obese pets are also at an elevated risk of diabetes. Trupanion discovered that owners of obese pets spend over ten times more on diabetes treatment than pet owners with pets of average weight.

Weight problems can happen with any pet, and many pet owners do not realize their pet is overweight. According to APOP, 22% of dog owners and 15% of cat owners think their pet is a healthy weight when it is actually overweight.

“When running your hands along your pet’s chest, you should be able to easily feel their ribs with slight padding. If the ribs protrude or are undetectable, your pet is likely at an unhealthy weight. However, some breeds have more visible ribs than others, and the ribs can be hard to detect in breeds with long or thick hair,” said Dr. Kerri Marshall, Chief Veterinary Officer at Trupanion.

“If you have questions about your pet’s ideal weight, consult your veterinarian. They will be able to help you identify and manage your pet’s weight through diet and exercise in a safe manner.”

Overweight dogs need exercise along with a healthy diet. Photo Credit: LYRIS1/Flickr
Overweight dogs need exercise along with a healthy diet. Photo Credit: LYRIS1/Flickr

Following guidelines from a veterinarian, pet owners can do many things to maintain their pet’s healthy weight. Trupanionoffers the following top three diet tips on keeping your pet at a healthy weight on their Pet Obesity page:

  1. Control how much your pet eats. Talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s caloric needs and measure portions of food for your pet, instead of free pouring or “eye-balling it.”
  2. Control when your pet eats. Cut back on treat snacking between meals. The calories in treats can really add up, they should only make up about 10% of your pet’s caloric intake. Cut up small pieces of fruits and veggies, such as apples, carrots, or bananas, for healthy treats to reward your pet with.
  3. Keep your pet’s diet varied. Try warming up food, adding ketchup, oregano, mashed pumpkin or sweet potato, or even a splash of a fish oil supplement or salmon juice to make diet food more enticing and enjoyable for your pet.

Exercise is also a very important factor when it comes to keeping your pet healthy. Dr. Marshall recommends regular walks or play time with your pet.

“If you’re walking with your dog, there are apps available that will help your track the distance,” Dr. Marshall adds. “Walk for a Dog by Wooftrax will also help you give back to shelters and rescues simply by going out for a walk. If you’re going for a walk with your pet, you might as well contribute to a good cause at the same time.”

Your veterinarian can provide the best personalized advice for your pet. For additional tips on caring for your pet, visit Trupanion’s Pet Care page at Trupanion.com.