February 24, 2011

Obesity Becoming A Problem For Our Pets Too

Pets are suffering from an increasing multitude of health issues including diabetes, kidney failure, and cancer, claims a recent study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) and reported by the Huffington Post. Twenty percent of dogs and cats weigh 30 percent over a healthy weight.

Pet owners with one insurance company paid vets $25 million last year to treat obesity-related conditions in their pets.

Continuing to expand in both pets and people, obesity is becoming more widespread. APOP founder Dr. Ernie Ward remarks, "This year's data suggests that our pets are getting fatter. We're seeing a greater percentage of obese pets than ever before."

The Wall Street Journal makes a point that pet owners and food manufacturers may be partially responsible. Although pet owners most likely have good intentions, overweight animals come most often from owners who overfeed their pets or don't exercise them frequently.

Pet food manufacturers are not required to list calories on their food labels unless the product advertises a low calorie content -- there is now a proposal to change this. Also, feeding directions are listed for the pet's "most demanding" life stage, meaning the directions may lead to overfeeding by 25 percent.

In 2007, APOP began conducting veterinary surveys and has seen an increase in the percentage of animal obesity of at least 30 percent above normal body weight. In 2007, roughly 19 percent of cats were found to be obese by their veterinarian and in 2010 that number increased to almost 22 percent.

Canine obesity rates rose from just over 10 percent in 2007 to 20 percent in 2010. "One of the reasons we think the obesity rate for dogs has dramatically increased is due to a better understanding of what an obese dog looks like. Veterinarians also realize how critical it is to tell a pet owner when their dog is in danger due to its weight," explained Ward.

The nation's largest group of veterinary clinics, Banfield Pet Hospital, joined APOP in this year's study. "Banfield is committed to improving the health and well-being of pets"”weight-related disorders are a major concern for us," states Dr. Elizabeth Lund, a veterinary epidemiologist and Banfield's Senior Director of Research.

"Preventive care is at the core of Banfield's mission and we are incorporating weight assessment and counseling into each patient visit."

Dr. Steven Budsberg of the University of Georgia and past-president of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons remarked about increased awareness helping prevent serious injuries. "As a surgeon, many of the joint problems I treat are related to excess weight. If pet owners could keep their pet at a normal weight, many of these surgeries could be avoided."

"Even more important is the impact obesity has on joints and the arthritic changes that are often crippling. Many overweight pets experience severe joint pain that could easily be prevented by proper diet and exercise."


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