The Growing Pet Obesity Problem

photoObesity does not only affect humans. In North America, our pets are putting on the pounds and more and more animals are developing weight-related medical conditions that were virtually nonexistent 20 years ago. Our pets are getting osteoarthritis, diabetes, pancreatitis, anterior cruciate ligament injuries, and heart and respiratory disease.

Today, obesity is one of the fastest-growing health problems in our canine friends. A 2008 study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimated that 44% of American dogs, or roughly 33 million, were overweight or obese.

According to veterinarian Dr. Jody Kincaid, commercial food is one of the major causes of obesity. He does not recommend most commercial dog foods as these are corn-based, and dogs are not designed to eat corn.

“They digest it very poorly,” he says, “so what happens is much of the calories turn into fat, and yet the dog remains hungry because they are not getting the nutrient they need.”

Dr. Kincaid suggests raw meat and gluten-free food. He says raw is better because meat contains enzymes and minerals that are destroyed when cooked.

A lot of dogs become overweight due to improper diet and lack of exercise.

According to Dr. Jean Hofve, a holistic veterinarian and published author, an animal is the right weight if you can feel the ribs when you touch his sides. “The skin should slip easily, and there shouldn’t be a big wad of skin between the fur and the ribs.”

In addition, your canine friend should have a waist. He shouldn’t look like wrapped candy –  skinny on both ends and round in the middle.

A lot of pets’ eating habits become irregular when it’s the holiday season, as owners tend to feed their dogs table scraps during this time of the year.

Dr. Hofve cautions against fatty foods. While you can let your pooch have turkey and ham in moderation as a treat, she advises pet owners not to overfeed their animals during the holidays.

“Chicken skin, turkey skin and the fat off ham is very dangerous for dogs. Based on what they are eating, if they get an extra dose of fat, they can develop pancreatitis, which is incredibly painful and could be fatal.”

It is every dog owner’s job to keep dangerous foods such as onions, chocolate, grapes, and raisins away from their pets. Also, don’t give your pooch outdated foods, or those that have been in the fridge for a while.

“If it’s relatively healthy for you and me, it will be relatively healthy for your pet in most cases. If it’s not good enough for us to eat, don’t give it to your pet,” Dr. Hofve says.

Canines are not designed to live on the same food every day. According to Dr. Kincaid, “When you give them the same dog food all the time, their body gets really accustomed to that, and their digestive system loses its ability to take on new foods without too much trauma.”

And this is why there can be trouble during the holidays. Dogs can get sick easily when they suddenly get a bunch of turkey fat, for example, so Dr. Kincaid recommends giving scraps in small quantities.

Like humans, dogs also need proper diet and sufficient exercise to live a long and healthy life.

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