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The Doctors commonly discuss the risks of obesity for humans, but today, they are talking about the risk for our pets. One in three American pets are reportedly now obese. ER physician Dr. Travis Stork wants to know, “Why is Fido getting so fat?!” Veterinary nutritionist Dr. Lisa Weeth is in the audience to discuss this troubling issue.
Dr. Weeth says it’s not a surprise since cats and especially dogs mirror our lifestyles. “We get busy. It’s a lot easier to give a treat rather than take them on a walk or interact and play ball in the yard,” she explains. Dogs have different energy requirements so it’s important to know what your individual needs.
Not only are one in three pets obese, but another one in three are overweight. Dr. Travis notes how this mirrors the statistics in Americans. Plastic surgeon Dr. Andrew Ordon adds that also like Americans, the risk of diseases such as diabetes and cancer are greater in obese people, as well as obese pets.
Dr. Weeth agrees and says there are a lot of health risks that come along with obesity in pets. She says it increases the risk of arthritis, worsens arthritis, and can tear ligaments in their knees. There has actually been an 82% increase in arthritis in dogs over the last ten years. This can decrease their life-span by almost 2 years.
Additionally, if the dogs have any heart and lung problems, obesity can make it worse. They can have breathing problems because it becomes harder to move air around and for the heart to pump if there is excess weight.
Dr. Weeth shares some tips to prevent obesity in your pets:
- Be mindful of snacks and treats given. These should account for no more than 10-15% of the total day’s intake.
- Scale back on meal portion sizes and be mindful of calories in dog food. Dog food typically has 400 calories per cup and a 30-pound dog only needs about 800 calories per day. It is easy to go overboard with servings and when adding in treats, you could be feeding a dog like this to be a 40 pound one!
- Buy lower calorie treats. Or, use fruits and vegetables like broccoli, carrots, celery or frozen strawberries as treats. Start feedings these foods to dogs when they are young so they can develop a taste for them.
Additionally, Dr. Ordon reminds people to not feed food off of their plates to their pets. Dr. Travis challenges pet owners to check their pet's weight the next time they take them to the vet. If it has gone up, use it as an excuse to go for more walks with your dog.