May 4th, 2011 at 5:00 am
Obesity is a huge problem in America — and not just for humans. It’s estimated that more than half the dogs and cats in this country are overweight or obese. The health risks of obesity in animals mirror those in humans:
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- joint problems
- kidney disease
- shortened life expectancy
Studies show that most people with overweight pets aren’t even aware of it, but it’s the humans who are responsible, not the animals. Overfeeding, feeding table scraps or unhealthy treats, and lack of exercise are the primary culprits. And chances are, if your vet tells you your pet is overweight, you could probably lose a few pounds, too. That’s the dirty little secret of the veterinary industry — the taboo of talking about overweight animals for fear of offending their owners.
All that’s changing, though. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) was founded in 2005 by a group of veterinary professionals to help humans help their pets stay healthy. They have a great website, including a page on how many calories your pet really needs.
OK, so that’s the bad news. The good news is pets and people can help each other in the battle of the bulge. Instead of showing Fido how much you love him by giving him a treat, play with him. A good game of fetch and catch in the back yard, or a nice long walk says “I love you” better than any food treat ever could.
A recent article in the New York Times was called “Forget the Treadmill. Get a Dog.” Seems owning a dog is a great motivator to get us humans up off our butts and out exercising. The article cites a Michigan State University study of dog owners, noting that 60 percent of those who took their dogs for regular walks met federal criteria for regular (human) exercise, as well.
The weather is getting warmer. Bathing suit season is just around the corner. Get out there and take a walk. And take the dog with you. It’ll do you both good.