Promoting Health habits to address Pet Obesity
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), more than half of U.S. pets are considered overweight or obese, and the number affected is expected to continue to rise. Weight concerns in pets are a significant issue for veterinarians, pet owners and society as a whole.
Obesity is a big risk factor for many diseases and disorders in pets, including diabetes, cancer, kidney, liver, inflammatory bowel, respiratory compromise and others – impacting their quality of life and life expectancy.
As a veterinarian for more than 30 years, pet obesity and related behavioral disorders and diseases are now the top patient concerns addressed in my practice. Despite its prevalence, I am often met with surprised reactions from pet owners when they are told their pet is obese or overweight. While there are many factors contributing to the issue, one of the most important is the lack of education on the ideal weight and lifestyle needs of different pet breeds.
The pet food industry has long been a leading advocate for pets and their health, and I believe it can also play a significant role in tackling the pet obesity epidemic. The industry, along with pet retailers, veterinarians, and pet associations, can continue to help educate pet owners on the key tools for a healthy and active lifestyle for their animals, helping reduce pet obesity. Specifically, pet food companies can continue to help pet owners translate what's healthy for their pets in a few key ways:
Encouraging active lifestyles and exercise for pets
As U.S. lifestyles have changed, people today are less active and more sedentary, which has impacted the amount of exercise pets receive. The result: most pets don't get enough exercise. For example, dogs need, on average, approximately 30 – 45 minutes of activity twice a day. Depending on the breed of dog, they may need even more. Promoting the role exercise plays in a healthy lifestyle for pets is key.
Creating consistencies in feeding recommendations
Pet food companies work hard to ensure their nutrition labels not only meet regulations, but also provide helpful information to consumers. As the industry continues to grow and new brands enter the market, pet food companies have the opportunity to present pet food portion and feeding guidance in consistent, easy-to-interpret terms related to pets' ideal weight – This can help minimize pet owner confusion and misinterpretation on how much to feed their pet.
Promoting Healthy Portion Control in Overweight Pets
When pets need to slim down, it's important for pet owners to consult their veterinarian for proper instructions on how to slowly decrease the amount of food their pet receives until achieving the amount of food required to meet their nutritional needs. Animals that have their food cut back too quickly can be prone to behavioral problems, and are likely to go looking for food in other places, like the kitchen counter.
Encouraging regular veterinary care
Too frequently pets come to our office after there is a serious weight-related issue, which often could have been prevented. The highest expression of love pet owners can provide their pets is a commitment to their health and wellness. Routine veterinary care is essential.
by Dr. Amy Wolff