Obesity is not only an epidemic for the human race. One third of dogs and cats also suffer from it, according to a new American study.
A lack of exercise, overfeeding and genetics are all contributory factors.
According to this American study published recently by Banfield Pet Hospital, the number of overweight and obese cats rose by 169% in the US over the past 10 years. For dogs, the increase was 158%. And the numbers are still trending upwards.
The survey analyzed data gathered on 2,521,832 dogs and 505,389 cats based on visits and checks made at veterinary clinics across the country. Almost 30% of the dogs and 33% of the cats seen during these visits were overweight or obese.
The main causes are a lack of exercise and too much food. A genetic predisposition can also be a factor, as some breeds of dogs and cats are more likely to become obese. Pets that have been sterilized also have an increased risk of gaining weight, as hormonal changes can boost their appetite and make them less inclined to play and take a walk.
Obesity has consequences for animal health. It raises the risk of type 2 diabetes, arthritis and heart disease.
Banfield Pet Hospital says that up to the age of 4 months, a kitten should be fed 4 times a day, and then 3 times daily when it is aged between 4 and 6 months. After that, feeding should be no more than twice a day.
For dogs, it varies according to the animal’s size, age, physical condition and how active it is.
The study warns against the common attitude of giving treats to a dog or filling its bowl out of love or guilt for leaving it home alone. Portion size is also a problem, as it is often too generous.
Banfield Pet Hospital advises that the ideal weight for a dog or cat is when you can feel the animal’s ribs without being able to see them. If the animal is 10% above its correct weight, its ribs are no longer visible and cannot be felt, and if it is 20% above, no waist can be seen. Anywhere above the 20% mark is considered to be obese.
Only sport and a diet should be used to lower a pet’s weight.
Obesity also affects other types of pets. A British study in 2014 undertaken by the Pet Food Manufacturing Association revealed that 28% of pet rodents were obese and 15% of indoor birds.
And awareness can be an issue. In France, a 2010 survey by BVA/Gamm Vert revealed that only 13% of pet owners thought that their dog had a weight problem.