Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Pet Obesity - Are We Killing Our Pets?

Obesity was once only considered a condition affecting the health of adult men and women, who for some reason or another, didn’t take care of themselves properly. Statistics indicate that the severity of obesity has far more reaching implications than impacting on basic fitness quality. Obesity kills approximately 280 000 adults in the US alone.

This would be an alarming concern on its own, but research has proven that obesity also affects children. A survey has revealed that the rate of childhood obesity has grown rapidly in recent times with 4.2% of children aged between 6 and 11 years of age in 1963 to a staggering 17.5% in 2004. (CDC.gov.) In reflection one might even determine that these statistics are not completely surprising given that children today are not performing the same physical activities as they were in the 1960s. This is true.

The roles of domestic animals have also changed through the years. At one time it was considered an affluent novelty to care for a pet in the home, especially if the animal did not perform some necessary task on the property. Latter as companion pet ownership became more usual the job of the pet typically changed to involve more “play time”, accompanying the children as they ran and played, or being a companion to its master in the duration of daily events. Then being rewarded at the end of a long days “work” with a hearty meal (it is strongly recommended that dogs should be fed two smaller meals a day, and even skipping 1 day a week).

As the usually daily tasks of our lives have changed, so have the duties of our four legged companions. As with humans pet obesity has become a major health issue. An estimated 25-40% of dogs in the United States are obese (*1). Pet obesity is not an issue involving dogs alone, cats and all domestic pets are at risk from this potentially fatal condition.

Pet obesity is a major health concern. Overweight pets suffer more physical ailments and do not live as long as animals of recommended weight. Obesity often reduces a pet's enjoyment of life. Health risks associated with weight gain include: Heart and respiratory disease, diabetes, liver disease, joint diseases such as arthritis and spinal disc problem just to name a few

As with humans the lack of physical activity is not the only contributing factor to health issues related to obesity in our pets. There are in fact a number of causes, and indeed a number of ways we can works towards in improving the quality of life for our companions.

Our first question should be “are we killing our pets with kindness”. Diet plays a significant role in contributing to pet obesity. While we should consider physical activity as a changed circumstance over the years, we should also consider reevaluating the food we feed our pets. Instead of examining the changed daily routine of our pets, and altering their diets to suit. We have either neglected to serve an appropriate diet, or over compensated for physical activity with the issuing of treats often with little or poor nutritional quality.

While we are well aware that fast food is bad for our kids, few of us realize that fast food is also bad for our pets. You might be wondering what fast food for pets is. Simply fast food for pets is a tin of dog food. Take the time to read the label on a tin of manufactured dog food and you will discover that it is packed with processed this and processed that and a whole variety of weird and wonderful additives. Not all tinned foods are the same; surprisingly many of the more expensive and well known labels are not ideal. I am sure my children will eat heartedly if I fed them McDonald's every night, but I certainly would not do this simply because it is not good for them. There are many good quality pre-prepared pet foods available on the market that do contain good healthy ingredients. Shop for your pet with the same concern you would when you shop for the human members of the family. Alternatively preparing your own healthy meals from fresh ingredients is surprisingly a cheap and easy option.

Keep in mind that treats are just that, treats!

And my favorite health routine for both myself and my pet, make time. A walk or play each day will not only improve your pets health, it is just what the doctor ordered for you also. A daily walk or play will improve health and wellbeing of mind body and soul for you both.

(*1) Wolfsheimer, KJ. Obesity. In: Ettigner SJ, Feldman EC. , editors. Textbook of veterinary internal medicine. 5th edition. WB Saunders Company; Philadelphia (PA): 2000.

Lauren a.k.a "The Pet Steps Lady" loves pets and is concerned about their health in today's world. She helps injured, elderly, and post-surgical pets with her quality dog and cat steps and is now looking to reach out to help those pet owners who have overweight and obese pets. Lauren is the proud owner of her dog Mollie B, her cat Pumpkin, and the newest addition to her family kitten Kingston.

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