There's no way to deny it, our pets are putting on the pounds.
According to a new study out from Banfield Pet Hospital, one in three of our pets are overweight. Yeah, that's a LOT of our furry friends. And that number has been increasing at a worrying rate. According to the study, over the past 10 years, cat obesity has gone up 169 percent and dog obesity is up 158 percent.
It's a serious problem because just as with humans, obesity is not healthy. Carrying extra weight can make your pet more susceptible to health conditions and chronic diseases like arthritis and tracheal collapse. Plus, we as owners bear some of the burden as well. Owners of overweight dogs spent 17 percent more money on health care and 25 percent more on medications. And owners of overweight cats spent 36 percent more on diagnostic procedures.
So as pet owners, what can we do about our pudgy pets? Well, to start, we can understand some of the underlying causes of our pets' obesity to better help us treat it. These are the top eight reasons pets become overweight according to Banfield.
1. Too many treats
We all love our pets, and we want to show our love with rewards and affection. Unfortunately, too often, those rewards come in the form of treats. Banfield insists that treats should not make up more than 10 percent of your pet's diet. So when you want to reward your pet, consider some non-food rewards like affection and playtime.
2. Feeding pets human food
We love to treat our pets like part of our family. And what do we do with the family? Feed them, of course! But we don't realize how many calories our human food has and how quickly it can affect our pet's weight. Banfield reminds us that a slice of cheese can make up almost 33 percent of a small dog or cat's calories for the day. And that adds up fast!
3. Not enough exercise
Like us humans, our pets need exercise. And even though our lives may get busy, we need to help to make sure they get it. With dogs, make sure to take your canine on a long walk each day. And for cats, encourage some play with toys. Helping to get your pet moving can keep them svelte and healthy.
4. Not the right amounts of food
Many of us don't actually know exactly how much food our pets should be eating. And the truth is, it's probably less than we think. While Banfield reminds us that calorie requirements rely on details like breed, activity level, and size, they have some general estimates. And the numbers might surprise you.
- Cats (10 pounds): 224 calories
- Small Dog (10 pounds): 342 calories
- Medium Dog (30 pounds): 779 calories
- Large Dog (50 pounds): 1,143 calories
- Giant Dog (90 pounds): 1,777 calories
5. Not enough dialogue with our veterinarian
The best person to give you a more exact estimate and diet plan for your pet is your vet. But we don't always have that conversation. Your vet can help weigh all the factors to give you a more accurate target for your pet's weight. Plus, they likely have food recommendations to fit your pet's specific needs.
6. Thinking our chubby pets are just "cute"
Because overweight pets have become more common, we're starting to think that their weight is normal. And let's be real, a chubby pet is TOO cute. But that cuteness is probably not healthy. Yet another reason to check in with your vet, to make sure your pet's weight is in a healthy range.
7. Chronic diseases
Certain diseases can make your pet more susceptible to gaining weight. Conditions like arthritis might make your pet less likely to want to move, which means they burn fewer calories. Other diseases that might be a factor include kidney disease and diabetes.
8. The type of breed
Certain breeds tend towards obesity more than others, so that's another factor to take into account.
Dog breeds that tend towards obesity:
- Labrador retrievers
- Cocker spaniels
- Cairn terriers
Cat breeds that tend towards obesity:
- Maine coons
Remember, our pet's health rests in our hands, and we have to do everything we can to take care of them. And that means managing their weight like we would our own. So if your pet seems like they might be tipping the scales, talk to your vet about how you can work with your pet to keep them a healthy, happy weight.