Guest Column: Pet obesity is on the rise

Published 4:25 pm Friday, September 8, 2017

By Michelle Nelson

Michelle Nelson is the owner of The Pet Authority in Albert Lea.

Obesity is no longer just an epidemic among people; it is now the fastest-growing epidemic among pets. According to the latest research from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, approximately 53 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats are overweight or obese. What is even more shocking is that of those pets, 93 percent of dog owners and 88 percent of cat owners thought their pet was in normal weight range.

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How do I know if my pet
is overweight?

There are several tell-tale signs that your pet is overweight. When you stand above your pet, you should be able to see a waist line. Behind the rib cage it should indent and then widen out again as you reach the hips. From the side, your pets stomach should not hang down like a pouch, but should curve up behind the rib cage. Third, when you apply light pressure with your hand to your pet’s rib cage, you should be able to feel your pet’s ribs easily. If your pet has no visible waist, has a pouch for a stomach or you can’t feel it’s ribs, your pet needs to lose weight.

What can I do to help my pet lose weight?

Two major factors contributing to pet obesity that you can easily change are lack of exercise diet and an improper diet. Dogs, especially in their early years, need two to three (or more) hours of exercise every day. Whether it’s a nice long walk before and after work or spending some time in the back yard playing fetch, dogs will benefit greatly with these healthy activities. For cats, use toys that are interactive like cat wands, motion activated toys, food-dispensing toys, as they all get your cat up and moving increasing their activity level. Remember, cats normally sleep more during the day and are more active at night, so finding toys for them to play with during the night will also be helpful.

The second thing to look at is your pet’s diet. Whether you are feeding a dry or a wet food, ingredients do matter. The first ingredient should definitely be a named meat like chicken or turkey. Avoid low-quality ingredients like corn, wheat, soy, meat meals, byproducts, excessive white potato etc., as these are empty, undigestible calories or are extremely high in carbohydrates and just leave your pet feeling hungry. Treats should be low in fat and of good quality. Freeze-dried and grain-free treats work best. For cats, especially, look for treats that contain L-carnitine, which is essential for converting fatty acids into energy — a deficiency may result in increased fat storage. 

Does it really matter if my pet is overweight?

Absolutely! Serious medical conditions can occur due to your pet being overweight. Diabetes, heart disease, respiratory issues, high blood pressure, cancers and joint stress are all health issues that can result from excessive weight. Even if your pet is already suffering from some of the above medical conditions, these conditions can be halted and even reversed when you take the excess weight off your pet.

As a pet owner, you want to do everything you can to give your dog or cat a long and healthy life. The No. 1 thing you can control is their weight and that can be done by simply managing their diet and daily exercise.