According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), 21% of companion animals in the U.S. are obese. A Purina survey has shown that 60% of American pets are overweight. This number is very concerning, considering that pet obesity can cause osteoarthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, pulmonary and heart diseases, injuries, kidney disease, cancer, skin conditions, and shortened lifespans.
What causes obesity in our furry friends? Can't we just feed them a little less? One of the main problems is that people don't realize when their pets are overweight. It can be hard to tell because of all their fur, and also because they are simply different species, which makes it harder to judge whether they look healthy. To find out how much your pet would weigh in human pounds, go to http://www.petobesityprevention.com/pet-weight-translator/.
Another reason is that people feed their pets too many treats. Did you know that a 40-pound dog eating a pig's ear is the caloric equivalent of a human drinking a 6-pack of Coke? And for some small dogs, a cheeseburger could amount to 5 days worth of calories!
The third reason, of course, is that many people do not let their pets exercise.
Here are some things you can do to prevent your companion animal from becoming overweight, or to help them lose weight if they need it:
- Only feed them the amount that they need. This can be determined by your doggie owner manuals and rabbit handbooks, as well as numerous websites. Feed them the amount recommended for their ideal weight.
- Keep treats to a minimum. I never feed my dog regular dog treats, even though my family has accumulated many bags of them over the years. Instead, I give him the occasional chickpea or bit of carrot that has fallen on the ground.
- Take your dog and cat on walks. Let your rabbit and guinea pig have free-run of the house. Give your mice a wheel to run in. Allow your horses to live in a pasture instead of stalls. Bird-proof a room and let your parrot fly/hop around in it! (Make sure you draw the curtains!)
- If you are worried about your companion animal's health, but you don't know whether or not they are overweight, either do the "rib test"-- you should be able to feel the ribs under a thin layer of fat without pressing-- or take him or her into the vet for a checkup.
- Don't starve your companion animals! That's worse abuse than feeding them too much, after all!
- Love them unconditionally. People are sometimes embarrassed or ashamed that their pets are overweight. But it isn't your companion animal's fault. They have genetically evolved to prepare for times of scarcity. So never treat them badly for such a thing.
- Offer to walk the neighbours' dogs. It will mean the world to both the neighbours and the dogs!