MIAMI, Oct. 12, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- October 12 is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day, and petMD.com is acknowledging the weighty issue behind this day with a few tips for recognizing and preventing obesity in pets.
In a 2007 study, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) found that 19% of cats and 10% of dogs were overweight. As of 2010, the numbers have risen to include 22% of cats and 20% of dogs. APOP founder Dr. Ernie Ward suggests that obesity has not necessarily doubled in dogs over the last five years, but rather we are just starting to realize what an overweight dog looks like.
"I see so many pet owners that do not realize their pet is overweight or even obese," says petMD contributor Dr. Lorie Huston. "And those that do realize it often think it's cute or funny."
Obesity plagues pets for the same reasons it afflicts humans, too much food and not enough exercise. Veterinarians agree that owners regularly feed their pets too much food. Cat and dog food is often packed with energy and pets don't always need the entire recommended amount on the bag. Another common culprit is too many treats, especially those that lack any real nutritional value. According to Dr. Ward, "If an average 20-pound dog eats a Snausages SnawSomes Peanut Butter and Apple Flavor treat, it's the same as an average human eating half of a large Domino's Pizza with Extra Cheese."
One of the most common signs that a pet is overweight is the presence of excess fat covering his/her ribs. Pet owners are often shocked to learn that they should be able to feel their pets' ribs. Pets should also have a waistline, or a visible narrowing just behind the last rib. Finally, if there is fatty tissue that hangs from a pet's abdomen, he/she is likely overweight.
"Pet obesity is a preventable condition that is primarily the result of pet owner negligence and may lead to irreversible health problems," says petMD contributor Dr. Patrick Mahaney.
As for how to prevent this condition, Dr. Mahaney recommends the following steps:
- Schedule an examination with your pet's veterinarian – Various diseases can cause a pet to become overweight, you will want to rule those out as well as make sure your pet is healthy enough to begin an exercise program.
- Employ calorie restriction and portion control.
- Reduce dry food and increase whole foods – Add steamed or pureed vegetables to make up for volume while reducing commercial dog and cat food.
- Increase feeding frequency – Feed your pet at least once every 12 hours. More frequent feeding makes for a consistent metabolism.
- Commit to daily exercise.
Pet obesity can lead to many serious dog diseases and cat diseases, including diabetes, arthritis, hypertension, dermatitis and heart disease. For more information on preventing and combating obesity in pets, visit petMD.com.
petMD is a leading online resource focused solely on the health and well-being of pets. The site maintains the world's largest pet health library, written and approved by a network of trusted veterinarians. petMD was founded to inspire pet owners to provide an ever-increasing quality of life for their pets and to connect pet owners with pet experts and other animal lovers. petMD is a subsidiary of the Pet360 family of brands, which also includes PetFoodDirect.com – the most complete pet food and supply retailer online, and NationalPetPharmacy.com– a fully certified, full-service pet pharmacy delivering pet meds, vitamins and comprehensive pet health and wellness products.
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