Monday, February 22, 2010

Obesity in Pets: It’s No Laughing Matter

By Julia Williams

People who aspire to be compassionate and/or politically correct wouldn’t dream of laughing at an obese person. Most of us are evolved enough to know this just isn’t funny. Yet, to my dismay I recently discovered that some people do think fat cats and pudgy pooches are hilarious. A simple Google search brought up countless pictures of morbidly obese dogs and cats, as well as Youtube videos, cartoons, caricatures and blogs, all poking fun at these roly-poly pets.

As an animal lover, I didn’t laugh. In fact, I gasped. I was saddened at the sight of these poor pets that were allowed to become so shockingly huge. For me, this sort of thing is the opposite of amusing. It’s certainly not what any caring, responsible pet owner would do. Our pets do not become fat of their own accord; they simply eat what (and how much) is given to them by their human guardian. Our pets don’t control the amount of calorie-burning exercise and playtime they get either. When these two things are out of balance, weight gain is the inevitable result. And according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, fat pets are becoming more prevalent every year. Their 2008 study estimated that 44% of all dogs and 57% of all cats in the U.S. are overweight, with around 14% qualifying for obesity.

But fat pets are not funny. The reality is, obese pets suffer, and many die prematurely due to weight related health problems. Like humans, overweight pets are at risk for developing diabetes, heart disease, liver malfunction, digestive disorders, high blood pressure, damage to their joints and bones, and many other conditions that endanger their health. I think it’s unfortunate that people who allow their pet to starve (intentionally or not) are charged with animal cruelty, yet owners who allow their dog or cat to become morbidly obese are not held accountable. It doesn’t really make sense to me. When your pet becomes so big it can’t walk and has difficulty breathing, isn’t it rather obvious this is a serious health problem which requires human intervention?

Ignorance is no excuse for letting a pet suffer, either. Even when it’s not so clear cut, such as when a pet is merely overweight rather than morbidly obese, a responsible owner would be made aware of this when they took their pet in for a yearly checkup. Then, they could discuss with their vet the proper way to go about helping their pet lose weight. Just as with humans, there is no “quick fix” for weight gain in pets. Many different factors may be contributing to a pet’s excess weight, and owners need the guidance and knowledge of trained professionals to safely and effectively combat pet obesity.

Helping an overweight pet shed excess pounds is not an easy task, to be sure. The ideal solution is not to let your pet get fat in the first place. But if and when it happens, a responsible owner takes action immediately to remedy the situation, because untreated obesity in pets can have devastating consequences. No one who loves their dog or cat would allow their health and quality of life to be diminished by excess weight.

If you think your pet is overweight, let your vet help you determine the best course of action. By helping your pet to lose weight, you will likely be adding years to their life – which means there will be a lot more kitty kisses or doggie hugs in store for you!

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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