Watch those ta­ble scraps Third of Amer­i­can pets sim­ply too fat

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. - BY LAURA KELLY

Amer­i­cans aren’t mak­ing just them­selves fat; they’re also mak­ing their pets obese, a study says. About one-third of dogs and cats in the U.S. are over­weight, ac­cord­ing to a study by the Ban­field Pet Hospi­tal in Van­cou­ver, Washington. But hospi­tal re­searchers found that fat cats and dogs don’t nec­es­sar­ily re­flect their own­ers’ ten­den­cies.

“The states where we had the low­est preva­lence of over­weight and obe­sity in our pets are where we had the high­est preva­lence of over­weight and obe­sity in peo­ple,” vet­eri­nar­ian Kirk Bre­uninger, the study’s lead re­searcher, told The Washington Times.

Mean­while, the As­so­ci­a­tion for Pet Obe­sity Pre­ven­tion es­ti­mates that 59 per­cent of cats and 54 per­cent of dogs in the U.S. are obese, based on data from its 2016 sur­vey, and notes that pet obe­sity rates in­creased over the pre­vi­ous year.

“Obe­sity con­tin­ues to be the great­est health threat to dogs and cats,” as­so­ci­a­tion founder Ernie Ward said in a state­ment. “Obe­sity is a dis­ease that kills mil­lions of pets pre­ma­turely, cre­ates im­mea­sur­able pain and suf­fer­ing, and costs pet own­ers tens of mil­lions of dol­lars in avoid­able med­i­cal costs.”

Ac­cord­ing to the fed­eral Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, more than one-third of Amer­i­can adults are obese, re­quir­ing more than $147 bil­lion in an­nual med­i­cal costs.

The As­so­ci­a­tion for Pet Obe­sity Pre­ven­tion es­ti­mates that 60.2 mil­lion U.S. house­holds own a dog and 47.1 mil­lion house­holds own a cat, ac­count­ing for 89.7 mil­lion dogs and 94.2 mil­lion cats as pets across the coun­try.

In the Ban­field Pet Hospi­tal study, re­searchers com­piled data for 2.5 mil­lion dogs and 500,000 cats treated at Ban­field vet­eri­nary clin­ics across the U.S. last year.

Dr. Bre­uninger said his team looked at how stud­ies showed obese Amer­i­cans were less likely to seek pre­ven­tive care and won­dered if the same was true for obese pets. They found that the states with the high­est num­ber of obese pets had the low­est in­stances of pre­ven­tive care mea­sures, par­tic­u­larly in check­ing an­i­mals for par­a­sites.

“Par­a­sites are linked to pre­ven­tive care be­cause if we’re not do­ing rou­tine fe­cal ex­ams to iden­tify par­a­sites, and we’re not do­ing rou­tine de­worm­ing, then those pets will have a higher preva­lence of in­testi­nal par­a­sites, and those par­a­sites pre­vent pets from uti­liz­ing the nu­tri­tion they eat and they ul­ti­mately can put on weight that way,” Dr. Bre­uninger said.

The study fo­cused only on pets that vis­ited Ban­field hos­pi­tals. Pet own­ers in Min­nesota were the worst of­fend­ers, with 41 dogs and 46 cats per 100 own­ers des­ig­nated as over­weight or obese.

Other rea­sons that dogs and cats gain weight: Own­ers treat their an­i­mals with snacks or food from the ta­ble, over­feed their pets and don’t al­low for enough ex­er­cise. Dr. Bre­uninger said own­ers should con­sult with vet­eri­nar­i­ans to come up with plans unique to their an­i­mals’ needs, and a fo­cus on nu­tri­tion and ex­er­cise is key.

He sug­gested sim­ple things own­ers can do to in­crease the ac­tiv­ity lev­els of pets, whether it be ex­tend­ing a dog’s walk or play­ing catch, or adding a few min­utes of play time with a laser pointer for a cat.

A prob­lem with own­ers iden­ti­fy­ing their pets as over­weight is that they don’t know what to look for, Dr. Bre­uninger said.

“That can be dif­fi­cult be­cause now that it’s 1 out of 3 pets that are over­weight, we’ve al­most nor­mal­ized it. We al­most see pets that are over­weight, and we don’t even rec­og­nize that they are in fact over­weight,” he said.

Dr. Bre­uninger rec­om­mended look­ing for a lit­tle tuck at a pet’s waistline, a bulge or a form that is not com­pletely straight from head to tail. If an owner can’t feel a pet’s ribs when search­ing for them, then it could be a sign of obe­sity.

Obe­sity in an­i­mals of­ten oc­curs with arthri­tis and tra­cheal col­lapse in dogs. The re­searchers also high­light that hav­ing over­weight dogs in­creases med­i­cal costs by 17 per­cent for clinic vis­its and 25 per­cent for med­i­ca­tions. For cats, own­ers spend 36 per­cent more on di­ag­nos­tic pro­ce­dures com­pared with those with healthy fe­lines.

The As­so­ci­a­tion for Pet Obe­sity Pre­ven­tion es­ti­mated that pet own­ers spent $15.95 bil­lion on vet­eri­nary ser­vices last year.

“I think it’s im­por­tant for own­ers to un­der­stand that small changes can re­ally ben­e­fit the pets long term in their life,” Dr. Bre­uninger said. “I think they should part­ner with their vet­eri­nar­i­ans to de­ter­mine what is best for their pet. Also, know that hav­ing an over­weight pet doesn’t just af­fect their health, but it also af­fects the owner’s wal­let be­cause it in­creases the costs they need to spend on their health care for ad­di­tional dis­eases that are linked to pets that are over­weight.”

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