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Pet Obesity: A Growing Trend

By , SparkPeople Blogger
As obesity has risen over the years, the waistlines of our pets have unfortunately followed that trend as well. While we are in charge of our own journey to a healthy lifestyle, our pets don’t have that choice. We are in charge of what and how often they eat, along with what types of exercise they get and how often.

According to this study in The Wall Street Journal, the main culprit of overweight pets are “owners who routinely overfeed pets, don't exercise them enough and are unaware of the severe, and costly, health problems caused by excess weight. Common woes include diabetes, arthritis, kidney failure, high blood pressure and cancer.” Wait...aren't those some of the same problems that we face due to excess weight?

If you have visited my SparkPage, you may have noticed that I am an animal lover. I currently have 3 cats and a 10 month old puppy. Over time and even more recently I have seen some very overweight pets, even right here in my neighborhood. While I may not be the perfect pet parent, I am always doing what I can to make sure that none of my fur-babies become a statistic of having any complications of being overweight.

I have always been careful about how much I feed my cats, especially since they don’t tend to get that much exercise. However, I do try to play with them and get them to be active each day. For cats, especially those that are indoors only, it can be difficult to get them to play. Fortunately for my cats, they each have their favorite toys that I can get them to play with, and they love to run around and chase each other up and down the stairs. Some days though, they are definitely lazy and not into playing, but I still try to get them to engage in play time.

With Zoe, my now 10 month old puppy, I make sure she gets plenty of exercise and I limit her food and treats to what is recommended by her veterinarian. I also take her to the veterinarian’s office for monthly weigh-ins just to be sure she is still at a healthy weight. As a Labrador retriever, she is very food-driven, and if it were up to her, she would eat all day, every day. She is very active, but she definitely wouldn’t be opposed to eating more if she were given the opportunity. Zoe actually helps me get moving some days, because she needs to be walked, even if I don't feel like it. So it works both ways for the two of us - we both get some exercise at the same time.

If you're unsure of how much to feed your pet, check with your veterinarian. They can give you a good guideline, especially since they will know your pet’s health history, including their weight and size. There are numerous brands of food and treats out there, and you may have noticed recently that there has been a lot of advertising about what is in your pet’s food. A lot of pet food out there is made of fillers, which can mean that you give your pet more food, which means more calories, but it will be less filling for them and they will still be hungry. Like us, this can lead to overfeeding and obesity. Just as you have learned here on the dailySpark and SparkPeople, check the ingredients list. This can help you decide on what is a better choice of food and/or treat for your pet. Also, be aware that some of your pets’ treats contain sugar, and quite a few contain by-products of some kind, even the brands that you may think are good for your pet. Yes, you read that right. Sugar is not only added in our food, but it is in our pets’ food/treats too.

Being overweight as a dog or a cat can be very hard on their body, just as it is for us humans. However, even just one extra pound to a cat or dog can be even more strenuous to their body and joints than it is for us because of their size. Unlike us though, they don’t have a way to control their circumstances. We are able to make our own decisions on creating healthy habits for a healthy lifestyle, but our pets don’t get that option. They are at the mercy of our decisions, which is why it is important to keep them in mind too, as you learn about living a healthy lifestyle and create new, healthier habits for yourself. Making small changes for our pets by feeding them properly and making sure they get the necessary exercise can allow them to live a long, happy and healthy life with you.

Let’s change this trend of obesity in pets, just as we are changing it for humans. Let’s Spread the Spark to our fur-babies and give them a chance at living a healthy lifestyle too!

What do you do to help your pet have a healthy lifestyle? What is your pet’s favorite exercise/activity? Do you have any tips to offer other pet parents for helping their pets live a healthy lifestyle?

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