The problem of obesity may not be limited to people alone, as pets are also becoming heavier and heavier in recent years.
In fact, one in every three dogs and cats in the United States can already be classified as overweight based on a new study. This raises questions about the eating habits of pets and the various health risks associated with gaining too much weight.
Researchers at the Banfield Pet Hospital have been studying trends in the health of pets in the United States. For their 2017 State of Pet Health report, they examined more than 2.5 million dogs and 505,000 cats from 42 different states, as well as those in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
The team found that the number of overweight dogs in the country increased by as much as 158 percent since 2007. The number of overweight cats also saw a significant increase during the same period, rising to about 169 percent.
Having a chubby dog or cat may be amusing to some pet owners, but allowing pets to become overweight can lead to serious health problems. Much like in humans, obesity can cause animals to develop numerous chronic diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and various respiratory illnesses.
In the Banfield study, researchers saw an 83 percent increase in the number of dogs suffering from tracheal collapse and an 82 percent increase in dogs with arthritis.
The growing pet obesity epidemic is also costing dog and cat owners more money to cover pet healthcare expenses. The researchers estimate that a dog owner with an overweight pet could spend 17 percent more in healthcare costs and an additional 25 percent on medications over a four-year period.
Meanwhile, owners with an overweight cat could spend as much as 36 percent more on various diagnostic procedures and about $1,178 more to cover overall expenses each year.
What Could Be Causing The Pet Obesity Epidemic?
According to the Banfield researchers, there could be several factors contributing to the growing obesity epidemic in pet animals. One such factor could be the misconception about what could be considered an "overweight" pet.
With more dogs and cats becoming increasingly overweight, pet owners might view this trend as the "new normal." This could end up affecting the amount of food they feed their pets, according to the researchers.
To prevent pets from gaining too much weight, the research team suggests that pet owners cut down the amount of treats they give to their pets. They should also allow their pets to get enough exercise so that they could burn the food they eat.
Dog owners can take their pets for a walk or even play a game of catch, while cat owners can give their pets a feather teaser or a ball for them to play with.
Taking pets to the veterinarian for regular checkups is also a great way to monitor their health. Pet owners should also ask their vets for some advice on how to keep a better eye on the nutrition of their pets.