National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Gaining Steam
Initiative gradually picks up more advocates for animal health.
Wednesday, October 10 marked the seventh annual National Pet Obesity Awareness Day in the United States, where last year an estimated 54 percent of cats and dogs were considered overweight and obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.
The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, a coalition of veterinarians and veterinary groups launched in 2005, won’t release its latest findings on pet obesity until February 2013. But Ernie Ward, DVM, the founder of the APOP, as it is known, says he is cautiously hopeful that the numbers will slowly dip downward.
“The reality is since we started [APOP] in 2005 we have only seen an increase in pet obesity. This is a very serious problem and it won’t be solved overnight,” Ward told Zootoo.
About 88.4 million pets last year were found to be overweight, though 22 percent of dog owners and 15 percent of cat owners characterized their pets as having a normal weight when they were actually overweight or obese.
The study, conducted at 41 US veterinary clinics, evaluated 459 dogs and 177 cats in October 2011 and found nearly 25 percent of all cats were classified as obese and about 21 percent of all dogs were obese that year. That’s up from 2010, when nearly 22 percent of cats and 21 percent of dogs were found to be obese.
A dog or cat being overweight carries over into much more than just the animal’s superficial physical appearance. The condition can have serious health consequences, as with humans, leading to a decreased life expectancy, heart and respiratory disease and insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.
“The most important decision pet owners make is what you pour into the bowl of your pet. It can really make a difference in the longevity of their cat or dog,” Ward said.
National Pet Obesity Awareness Day was established as a reminder for pet owners and veterinarians alike, so they could consider the impacts of a healthy or off-target weight. It’s timed to coincide right before the start of the holiday season, when people might be tempted to indulge their pets with rich foods.
Ward says that since they launched the awareness day, he has seen a boost in veterinarian holding pet obesity awareness days at their own clinics, offering people the chance to bring their pets in free of charge to assess their weight and receive basic counseling. He has also seen vets take on a creative, fun approach to weight loss through hosting “Biggest Loser” contests, based on the hit reality TV show in which contestants vie to lose weight.
“Seven years ago, no one was talking about this as an issue, and now we have pushed it to the front,” Ward said.
One big challenge in tackling this problem, according to Ward, is enforcing greater regulations on the pet food industry. Only the minority of pet foods shows the calorie count, Ward says, though he is seeing more and more weight-loss products and food for overweight dogs on the market.
“Every pet parent deserves to know how many calories they are feeding their pet. It is a real basic thing that is required on all human food.”
People could write their elected officials and ask that this issue be taken up as a legal one, to place more restrictions on the pet food industry.
How do you maintain a healthy diet for your pet? What do you think can be done to raise awareness about pet obesity? Share your thoughts below!
3 years ago
Well Skitters was overwieght even though we did not over feed her we had neighbors who thought that she was starving to death for some wierd reason when ever they saw her in the backyard so over the fence came all kinds of leftovers which was always treats meant for humans and not for dogs and some times even old moldy stuff since the apartments next door have two stories barbed wire on top of the fence probably wouldn't even work so we have to watch Abby when she is out there I was sure when I lost Skitters that she had diabetes, she had a collapsing treakia since she was born which made it extremely hard for her to lose weight once she gained it she could lose it but would then gain it back when ever she got too excited she would cough hard and that made it hard to exersice her to lose weight cause she was a rat terrier and everything excited her the thing that excited her the most was if I left when I got home and when she got to go for walks it seems much easier with Abby even though she has a bad leg.
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