Is your pet at risk for the #1 health threat?
There is a 53% chance your dog is affected. And a 58% risk your cat is implicated.
It’s a medical concern of epidemic proportions.
And it is slowly killing our pets – every day.
What is it?
U.S. pet obesity rates continued to increase in 2012.
The number of overweight cats reached an all-time high.
Such are some of the sobering conclusions of the National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Survey. This is the 6th annual survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) (full disclosure: I sit on the Board of this prestigious organization).
The 2012 survey revealed that 53% of dogs and 58% of cats are overweight or obese as evaluated by their family veterinarian. That equals approximately 80 million U.S. dogs and cats at increased risk for weight-related disorders such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, hypertension and many cancers.
“Pet obesity remains the Number 1 health threat to our nation’s pets,” states APOP’s founder, Dr. Ernie Ward. “We continue to see an increase in the number of overweight cats and an explosion in the number of type 2 diabetes cases.”
New York-based veterinary endocrinologist and APOP board member Dr. Mark Peterson agrees. “The soaring rate of feline and canine obesity is taking a terrible toll on our animals’ health. There is a vast population of overweight cats and dogs facing an epidemic of diabetes. The best preventive measure a pet owner can make is to keep their dog or cat at a healthy weight. Diabetes is far easier to prevent than treat, especially when twice daily insulin injections are needed.”
The fat gap:
The difficulty vets encounter is that many pet owners don’t recognize when their pet is overweight. In this survey, approximately 45% of cat and dog owners assessed their pet as having a normal body weight, when their vet assessed the pet to be overweight.
Dr. Ward calls the phenomenon of incorrectly evaluating an overweight pet as normal “the fat gap.” “The disconnect between reality and what a pet owner thinks is obese makes having a conversation with their veterinarian more challenging. Many pet owners are shocked when their veterinarian informs them their pet needs to lose weight. They just don’t see it.”
Certain breeds showed greater risk for excess weight. Vets classified 59% of Labs and 63% of golden retrievers as overweight or obese. Interestingly, German shepherds had the lowest reported pure breed obesity rate (2 %).
One consequence of chubbiness is the development of weight-related orthopedic conditions, starting with joint problems. Many readers probably know more about ACLs (Anterior Cruciate Ligaments) than they wanted to, because their pet needed ACL surgery. This is just one example of overweight as one possible cause of ACL tears.
Pets and kids:
Dr. Ward also sees a clear connection between pet and childhood obesity rates. The causes of pet and childhood obesity are largely the same: too many high-calorie foods and snacks combined with too little physical activity. It would be very beneficial to teach kids, early in life, to put down their video games and pick up the dog leash to go for a walk.
“This is a battle vets and pet owners must win. Obesity is the number 1 preventable medical condition seen in veterinary hospitals today. Our goal is to help pets and people live longer, healthier, and pain-free lives by maintaining a healthy weight, proper nutrition and physical activity. The most important decision a pet owner makes each day is what they choose to feed. Choose wisely. Your pet’s life depends on it.”
For fans of numbers out there:
. The 2012 survey analyzed data from 121 veterinary clinics in 36 States.
. 1,485 dogs and 450 cats were assessed
. Median age of surveyed cats and dogs: 6 years of age
. Based on 2012 survey results and 2012 American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) data, 80 million U.S. dogs and cats are overweight or obese.
. Based on 2012 survey results and 2012 AVMA data:
– An estimated 43 million cats or 58% are overweight or obese. Over 29 million cats are overweight, and almost 14 million cats are obese.
– An estimated 37 million dogs or 53% are overweight or obese. Almost 26 million dogs are overweight, and 11 million dogs are obese.
The worst part:
. Almost 46% of dog owners incorrectly identified their overweight or obese dogs as having a “normal weight.”
. Over 45% of cat owners incorrectly identified their overweight or obese cats as having a “normal weight.”
The best advice a vet can give you, the Holy Grail of pet happiness is this: “Feed your pet less, exercise them more and see your vet at least once a year.”