Pet obesity is the biggest health threat to our cats and dogs for the new year. The non-stop TV ads for diets like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig are already starting, along with special deals on gym memberships for all the people who made a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight and get fit, again. But look around, maybe you’re not the only one that needs to shed a few pounds, does the dog look a little too “fluffy?”
If so, you’re not alone. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), an estimated 58 percent of cats and 54 percent of dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese. The Lady I rescued experienced first hand the health problems associated with owning an obese pet. Taffy weighed 37 pounds when she first came to live with us, now she’s a healthy 21 pounds.
The severity of pet obesity is that it leads to the most common reasons for vet visits. According to Petplan® pet insurance, their most frequently claimed conditions have one thing in common: obesity.
“It’s no surprise that the biggest health threat to pets in 2017 is obesity,” says Dr. Ernie Ward, Petplan Veterinary Advisory Board member and founder of the APOP. “When you consider that over half of the nation’s dogs and cats are now overweight or obese, it literally is a growing problem.”
The most common conditions treated at the vet resulting from obesity include:
- Vomiting and diarrhea: Obese pets are probably eating more than they should, including table scraps, which can lead to vomiting or diarrhea. Petplan sees 900 claims a month for this condition, and one of those was ours! Taffy’s irritable bowel syndrome was over a $1,000. Her most recent bout of bacterial diarrhea took two trips to the vet at a cost of almost $300.
- Cancer: As in humans, there are some indications that certain types of cancer are more common in overweight or obese pets.
- Arthritis, causing lameness, or general limping: Extra pounds mean extra stress on pets’ joints and at added risk for cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) injuries. Not to mention, Taffy, a Cocker Spaniel, is more prone to anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. At her heaviest weight of 37 pounds, almost certain to happen.
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs): Although not the only cause, obese animals are more at risk of UTIs because they can’t clean those hard-to-reach places. At Taffy’s vet consultation before coming to live with us, guess what she had a history of? UTIs! As Taffy became healthier and shedding pounds that’s the first thing we noticed, Taffy could clean herself again. So far, no UTIs.
- Cardiac disease: high blood pressure, poor organ function and reduced activity resulting from obesity leads to heart disease.
- Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD): Keeping my slim Dachshund physique is very important to prevent IVDD. Not only are we prone to back problems, but Cocker Spaniels also. Which is why the Lady watches our food intake closely and exercises us regularly as added weight increase the chances of developing the disease. Which is very costly, starting at $2,000!
Pet obesity is 100% preventable and curable, just follow these tips:
- Daily exercise, at least 30 minutes
- Low-calorie treats (or praise)
- Know your pet’s calorie count — ask your vet and stick to it
Here’s wishing you a healthy and Happy New Year! And fewer vet visits!