How we can help dogs and they can help us become healthier.
We hear about the “Obesity Epidemic” in the United States over and over again. We are aware of how important it is to make healthy food choices and exercise. What you may not be aware of is that there is a real “Dog Obesity Epidemic” and it threatens the health and well-being of our canine family members.
In the U.S., 52.6 percent of dogs are overweight or obese, according to a survey done in 2014 by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). We might feel that extra food and treats show love but what they actually do is increase weight and the risk for osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart and respiratory disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, ligament injury and many forms of cancer. More detailed information can be found at the APOP website www.petobesityprevention.org. We are using food to love our dogs to death.
The strange thing about dog obesity is that we as pet owners don’t always realize that our dogs are overweight or obese. Among pet owners whose pets were considered obese by veterinarians, 93 believed believed their pets were of normal weight, according to the APOP survey.
How We Can Help Them
- We can learn how to tell if our dogs are overweight or obese and how to set a goal for a healthy weight. The APOP website has great information. If you need more help, ask your veterinarian or trainer or other qualified pet professionals.
- You can become knowledgeable about the health risks an overweight pet is facing. The APOP survey states “Dog obesity can reduce life expectancy up to 2.5 years.” Quality of life is also reduced.
- We can help our dogs to eat less. Consult your vet or pet nutritionist for help. When you reduce calories it is important to keep a balance that provides proper nutrition.
- Often it can help to become aware of how much you are actually feeding your dog. As a pet owner, you can be more careful about following feeding directions for food and about measuring the food. You might end up feeding less and your dog might actually remember what it is like to feel hungry and that is not a bad thing. Feeling some hunger is better than feeling the sluggish, lack of energy from living in a body carrying too much weight and suffering with the pain of arthritis.
- Treats can be a big source of calories. At Charlee Bear, more than 20 years ago, we created low-calorie treats to help limit the number of calories a dog gets when receiving a treat. We know how much fun it is to give treats and how helpful they can be in training. There are many wonderful options out there for delicious treats, including low-calorie options.
Exercise is not only important for health, dogs love it. When I pick up my dog’s leash and ask if he “wants to go for a walk” he becomes a bundle of joy and excitement. Doggie gyms are starting to open in various parts of the country, providing new ways to exercise. There is also doga, where people and dogs do yoga together. We should also spend more time walking and exercising together.
Dogs have been our partners for centuries, working, hunting s and living with us. They have been our partners in survival. If we work to become aware of what how much food is consumed, the choices we are making in treats and how we are exercising, we could all be healthier and happier. We might all be doing more running and jumping for joy.
About the Author: Ava Olsen is a long-time dog owner and rescue advocate, and is the Brand Manager for Charlee Bear Dog Treats, headquartered in Madison, Wis. Ava spends a fair amount of time in Costa Rica each year, where she has been known to foster dogs.