Obesity May Cut Your Pet's Life Short

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According to a 2014 study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 53 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats are overweight or obese in the United States. This is truly staggering when you look at these percentages in actual numbers, which is 44 million dogs and 55 million cats. A pudgy pet may look adorable, but the reality is that even a few extra pounds on an animal could have serious health consequences. The most common weight-related medical conditions in dogs and cats include:

• Cancer
• Heart Disease
• High Blood Pressure
• Insulin Resistance
• Kidney Disease
• Ligament Injury
• Osteoarthritis
• Respiratory Disease
• Type II Diabetes
Additionally, being overweight or obese can shorten the lifespan of pets by up to 2.5 years. That is a lot of time to lose when most pets don't make it out of their teens in the best of circumstances.
So Why Are Pets Getting Bigger?
With two-thirds of Americans having a body weight that falls into the overweight or obese category, it's not too surprising that their pets are putting on weight as well. Part of the problem is that people don't recognize when their dog or cat weighs too much. When a pet owner leads a sedentary lifestyle, their pet isn't likely to get the exercise and stimulation he needs to remain at a healthy body weight. Long hours at the office leaves little time for physical activity, even when both owner and pet desperately need it.
Another problem is that dog and cat owners overestimate the amount of food their pet actually needs in a day. They leave full bowls of food out for pets to eat whenever they want and immediately fill the bowl when it gets empty. Some animals naturally overeat when given the opportunity.
The caloric needs for pets is much lower than it is for people. A cat or dog weighing 10 pounds gets all the nutrition she needs from 200 calories a day. A 50-pound dog only needs up to 900 calories daily to stay trim and healthy. This chart http://www.petobesityprevention.org/ideal-weight-ranges/ showing ideal weights for different breeds of dogs and cats helps to put things in perspective.
How to Help an Overweight Pet
The first thing to do is take control of the food dish. Use a measuring cup to give your pet only the amount of food he needs and don't refill the dish until it's time for the next meal. If you normally give your pet treats for every good behavior, start cutting back and offering him praise and attention instead.
Exercise is vitally important as well. Dogs need to walk or play vigorously for at least 30 minutes every day to burn off their excess energy. It also helps to curb destructive behavior and boost immunity. Cats sleep up to two-thirds of the day, so be sure to take advantage of awake time to play with your cat using string, laser pointer, or anything that gets her up and chasing something.
Check with Us Before Changing Your Pet's Diet 
If you're concerned about your pet's weight and want to put him on a diet, please schedule an appointment at Grantsburg Animal Hospital first. Dr. Palmquist will determine if you should switch foods or just cut back on the one your pet already receives. This is important because many pets are sensitive to food ingredients and may not tolerate a sudden change very well. Dr. Palmquist can also give you additional tips for weight loss. 

Photo Credit: Ruchos / Getty Images

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