In the United States, an estimated 57.6% of dogs and 52.6% of cats are obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.  The problem has reached epidemic proportions.

More than half of our furry loved ones are significantly overweight, and it’s time we give those statistics a second look.  Just as it does with humans, obesity severely affects our pets’ overall quality of life.  There are considerable consequences that come from ignoring this problem, and we owe it to our pets to understand exactly what those problems are.  Some of the risks associated with obesity in pets include:

  • Arthritis and general joint discomfort
  • Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Kidney Disease
  • Increased Risk of Cancer

Do any of those issues sound familiar?  They should.  They are the same problems that humans experience as a result of poor body condition.

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Unfortunately, owners of obese pets suffer right alongside them, and it hits you where it really hurts: your wallet.  Pick any one of the secondary diseases that come about as a result of your pet’s obesity, and you will find that the cost to maintain their care is significant.  All of these diseases require ongoing monitoring, medications, and in some cases, life-saving procedures.

Financial impact aside, the biggest bummer of them all is watching your companion lose his or her ability to enjoy life.

If your pet is young, avoid these problems altogether by helping your pet maintain a healthy weight throughout his or her life.  It’s common sense, really.  Don’t overfeed, don’t feed junk food, and promote a playful and active daily routine.

If your pet is already obese and you want to stop the disease before it progresses further, the time to act is right now.  Start by speaking with your pet’s veterinarian about a healthier diet change.  There are oodles of high-quality, low-calorie diets available that are specifically formulated to help your pet shed some pounds.  Depending on the severity of your pet’s condition, it’s likely that your vet will recommend a few routine diagnostics (bloodwork, x-rays, etc.) before you begin the transition to a new food.  Once everything checks out fine, begin the transition.  Your vet will provide instructions for a gradual diet change, spread out over several days.

Once your pet has made the switch to a healthier diet, slowly begin to introduce more activity into his or her daily routine.  If you choose to go for walks, gradually increase the distance, speed, and frequency.  For cats, make exercise fun by introducing new toys.  Of course, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, adopt a playful new friend for your pet.

If you have concerns about the diet you are currently feeding or your pet’s current body condition, speak with your veterinarian.  He or she knows your pet’s individual situation best and can provide invaluable advice for helping your pet live a long, happy, healthy life.

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