Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pet Obesity: Noticing the Epidemic

Did you know a 13 lb. miniature Dachshund is equivalent to a 189 lb. 5’4” woman or 220 lb. 5’9” man?  Did you know a 90 lb. female Labrador is equivalent to a 186 lb. 5’4” woman or 217 lb. 5’9” man?  In other words, each dog is 30% overweight.  With an estimated 68% of U.S. adults being overweight or obese, it’s no wonder that an estimated 54% of U.S. cats and dogs are overweight or obese as well.  Overeating, eating unhealthy foods, and not exercising is a deadly combination and our bad habits are being passed along to our pets.
The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) conducted their yearly survey for pet obesity in 2011, only to find the results were worse than 2010.  The sad truth about the pet obesity epidemic (as it’s being called) is that an increased number of pet owners aren’t even aware that their pet is overweight.  APOP founder, Dr. Ernie Ward says, “22 percent of dog owners and 15 percent of cat owners characterized their pet as normal weight when it was actually overweight or obese. This is what I refer to as the “fat pet gap” or the normalization of obesity by pet parents. In simplest terms, we’ve made fat pets the new normal.”  This report, released on Monday, February 6th, also stated that “those at least 30 percent above normal weight or a body condition score (BCS) of 5, continues to grow despite 93.4 percent of surveyed pet owners identifying pet obesity as a problem.”  In other words, pet obesity continues to rise despite the realization that it poses major health risks.
Some of the common weight-related conditions in dogs and cats include:
·         Osteoarthritis
·         Type 2 diabetes
·         High blood pressure
·         Breathing problems
·         Kidney disease
·         Shortened life expectancy
Orthopedic surgeon, APOP Board member and Director of Clinical Research at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Steve Budsberg, says, “As an orthopedic surgeon I see, on a daily basis, the effects of obesity on dogs and cats with osteoarthritis.  It is very frustrating to see how much pain and discomfort excess weight has on my patients.  Veterinarians and owners have the ability to stop obesity in our pets. No animal goes to the refrigerator or the pantry and helps themselves.”
As Dr. Budsberg points out, we have no one to blame but ourselves.   There are no overweight dogs in the wild.  If we don’t learn to change our habits we continue to hurt the ones who depend on us to take care of them. 
If you are in denial or just curious about your pets weight, check out the APOP website for the Pet Weight Translator and put your pup’s weight into perspective.  Fill in your height, your dog’s actual weight and your dog’s ideal weight.  The translator will first show your maximum weight for your height and then translate your dog’s weight (actual vs. ideal) by comparing it to your maximum weight.  The website also offers tools to help pet owners get their dog back on track with their weight.  Take the challenge and make a difference in your dog’s life.  

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