Has the Obesity Epidemic Reached America’s Pets?
Many Americans today live with being overweight or obese, and recent studies show that Americaâ€™s pets are now suffering from these problems as well. Obesity became a serious problem for Americans in the 1990’s when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a 61% rise in the number of obese Americans and a 49% rise in the number of Americans with diabetes. These data are directly related to the fact that during this rise, 27.3% of people did not engage in any physical activity at all. It seems that Americans just donâ€™t like or donâ€™t have time for exercising. The average American diet only makes the situation worse. The enormous fast food industry has become an unhealthy pillar of American culture over the past decade. The crucial difference between human and Pet Obesity is that pets donâ€™t have control over their diet or exercise program. People that abuse their own bodies with poor food and exercise choices seem to be passing that abuse on to their pets. The National Academy of Science said that today 1 in 4 pets are overweight while other surveys say that as many as 40% of dogs and 12% of cats presented at clinics are either overweight or obese. It seems as though Americanâ€™s bad lifestyle habits have started to affect manâ€™s best friends. Many medical problems have been linked to obesity both in humans and animals. Heart disease and diabetes are just a few ailments on a long list of problems related to being overweight. Pets are known to also suffer from joint disease, stroke and fatigue at much higher rates when overweight. So what can pet ownerâ€™s do to help their furry loved ones live longer, healthier lives? It boils down to the same to the same two things for Americans and their pets, diet and exercise.
For any weight loss program, human or animal, diet is the first essential part. The first step is to consult with a veterinarian to ensure that the weight gain is not related to a medical condition such as hypothyroidism. The vet will also help construct a diet plan specific to the pets needs. A common misconception is that healthy dogs and cats must eat every day when in fact they do not. Smaller breeds are an exception, but even then pet owners must take care not to overfeed. This being said, the easiest way to cut calories is to simply reduce the amount the pet eats. One method is to reduce a petâ€™s daily food intake by one third. If in two weeks there is no weight loss, then the amount should be reduced by a third again until results are seen. It may seem cruel, but itâ€™s crucial to remember that they will live much better lives for it. Things such as sugary foods and table scraps should never be allowed in a petâ€™s diet, and pet treats should be given in moderation. Another issue to consider is the effectiveness of specially formulated, low-calorie pet food. With the rise of Pet Obesity, pet food companies raced to offer the public low-calorie alternatives. Some veterinarians say the low fat and high fiber content is beneficial, however, there are others that attest the amount of carbohydrates is far too high. As many low-carb dieters know, high carbs equal high insulin levels which leads to the storage of fat.
The other necessary part of battling pet obesity is to increase their daily amount of exercise. This means giving more walks for dogs and more playtime for cats and dogs. While itâ€™s suggested that people work out 30 minutes most days of the week, dogs need about 45 minutes to an hour of good exercise every day. This requires commitment and love on the part of the owner, but as an incentive, the pets who donâ€™t exercise have been shown to shorten their life span by as much as two years and suffer many more ailments. Besides walking, playtime is an excellent opportunity for pet exercise and for human entertainment. This is as simple as investing in good pet toys. For cats, cat nip toys have been shown to especially encourage a flurry of activity. If an owner sticks to giving their pet the best diet and exercise, they will enrich the petâ€™s life and their own as well.
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