In theory, fat animals are perfect. They are comforting to cuddle, and from a distance, they resemble a fuzzy ball. However, there is another side to this reality. There is a silent suffering that our furry friends are experiencing, and with the help of awareness days like this, we can better inform ourselves about the resources and causes for this pervasive pet problem.
Over half of all cats and dogs in the U.S. are classified as either overweight or obese. Many pet owners are familiar with the question regarding their pet’s physical health, but few have been able to find a surefire way to combat the overweight epidemic.
The general advice that veterinarians provide is to reduce the amount of food that your pets eat and to increase the amount of regular exercise your pets do. Although this advice is taken to heart, pet owners still often struggle with finding the correct food for their pets. With an overwhelmingly large list of options, it is easy for pet owners to feel like there are better options than the one they currently use. Options include but are not limited to: canned food, wet food, dried food, organic food, food that is plant-based, homemade food, food bought online and more.
Currently, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) is making efforts to inform the public as well as veterinarians of a standard system that could be used to improve assessment quality of pet obesity. They recommend adopting a standard threshold for what is considered obese, which is 30% above ideal body weight. APOP urges the use of the Universal Body Condition Score System, which rates pets on a 9 point scale versus a 5 point scale, which is also used by veterinarians. By switching to the Universal Body Condition Score System, the hope is to have veterinarians be able to communicate their results to each other in a more transparent way.
Pet obesity has yet to be recognized as a disease, but there is plenty of evidence to indicate that this should not be the case. Much like obesity in humans, pet obesity can severely impair the quality of life of a pet. Pet obesity can cause poor metabolic function, overall reduced mobility and an increased likelihood of contracting other diseases. Once pet obesity can be treated like a disease, a stigma can be removed that delegitimizes the suffering experienced by our loved ones, and more careful steps can be planned to reduce its prevalence in the U.S.
Though the concept of having perfectly spherical pets is amusing, it is also a cause for some concern and need for attention. Some ways you can help prevent your pet from becoming overweight/obese include setting up specific feeding times, managing what food they eat outside of set feeding times, taking your pet out to a park to meet other pets and generally finding them distractions that keep your pet occupied. Our furry friends need our help just as much as we need them!