American dogs and cats obese; owners don’t see the problem in front of their eyes

The 5th annual Pet Obesity Survey revealed that our pets are getting fatter - and fatter!

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) has released the results of their fifth annual veterinary survey, which found 53 percent of adult dogs and 55 percent of cats to be classified as overweight or obese by their veterinarian. That equals 88.4 million pets that are too heavy, according to veterinarians.

As with humans, some of the common weight-related conditions in dogs and cats include osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, breathing problems, kidney disease, and shortened life expectancy.

APOP founder Dr. Ernie Ward in the press release:

“The most distressing finding in this year’s study was the fact that more pet owners are unaware their pet is overweight.  Twenty-two percent of dog owners and 15 percent of cat owners characterized their pet as normal weight when it was actually overweight or obese. This is what I refer to as the ‘fat pet gap’ or the normalization of obesity by pet parents. In simplest terms, we’ve made fat pets the new normal.”

Perhaps even worse was the finding that the number of obese pets, those at least 30 percent above normal weight or a body condition score (BCS) of 5, continues to grow despite 93.4 percent of surveyed pet owners identifying pet obesity as a problem. The study found 24.9 percent of all cats were classified as obese and 21.4 percent of all dogs were obese in 2011.

That’s up from 2010 when 21.6 percent of cats and 20.6 percent of dogs were found to be obese. “What this tells us is that more and more of our pets are entering into the highest danger zone for weight-related disorders,” says Ward.

Translation: our dogs and cats are getting fatter and fatter, and we’re  not even noticing. Even worse? It’s our fault.

Orthopedic surgeon, APOP Board member and Director of Clinical Research at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine Dr. Steve Budsberg says in the release:

“As an orthopedic surgeon I see, on a daily basis, the effects of obesity on dogs and cats with osteoarthritis. It is very frustrating to see how much pain and discomfort excess weight has on my patients. Veterinarians and owners have the ability to stop obesity in our pets. No animal goes to the refrigerator or the pantry and helps themselves. We enable our pets to get fat!”

Treats continue to be a major contributor to weight gain in pets. An online poll conducted in October 2011 by APOP of 210 pet owners found 93 percent of all dog and cat owners gave treats. Ninety-five percent gave a commercial treat with 26 percent reporting they gave their pet treats three or more times a day. “Treats are the silent saboteur of slimming down,” remarks Ward. “Those tiny treats often are hiding a significant amount of calories.”

Some interesting info:

  • According to Dr. Ernie Ward, a 95-pound male Golden retriever is comparable to a 5’4″ human female weighing 184 pounds or a 5’9″ male who weighs 214 pounds.
  • A 10-pound Chihuahua is comparable to a 5’4″ human female weighing 242 pounds or a 5’9″ male who weighs 282 pounds.
  • A 15-pound domestic short-haired cat is comparable to a 5’4″ human female weighing 218 pounds or a 5’9″ male who weighs 254 pounds.
  • A premium pig ear (231 kcals) fed to a 40-pound dog is the equivalent of an adult human drinking six 12-ounce colas (840 kcals).
  • A typical dog biscuit (25 to 27 kcals) fed to a 20-pound dog is the equivalent of an average adult human eating two Keebler EL Fudge Double Stuffed Sandwich Cookies® (180 kcals).

According to the APOP weight and treat calculators:

  • A Pedigree small/medium Jumbone has 295 calories; a large, 619.
  • A Milk Bone large biscuite has 115 calories; an extra large, 225.
  • A Purina Busy Bone treat for small/medium dogs has 277 calories; a large, 445.
  • A Three Dog Bakery Roll Over Peanut Butter or Cheese 16 oz. treat has 400 calories.
  • See more calorie counts for dog treats here. 

And don’t forget the kitty! Only 49 percent of surveyed cat owners reported their veterinarian had discussed obesity and excess weight with them; compare that to 72 percent of dog owners. Even worse, only 46 percent of cat owners stated their veterinarian had reviewed nutrition or food choices, compared to 86 percent of those with dogs.

Here how about this cat treat calorie count? Fancy Feast Appetizer treats, 2 oz tray, ranged in calorie counts from 31.32 (White Meat Chicken and Flaked Tuna Appetizer in a Delicate Broth) to 39.34 calories (Steamed Tilapia Appetizer in a Delicate Broth).

You can read more calorie counts for dog food, cat food, dog treats, and cat treats on the APOP website.

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