Lack of self-discipline is the main cause of obesity in pets

Twice as many dogs are overweight in America than 10 years ago and it’s worse for cats. Banfield Pet Hospital, a chain of hospitals in America, is well positioned to collect data to allow them to analyze trends in the health of America’s companion animals. They’ve come up with a startling conclusion which is that over the past 10 years there has been a 108% increase in the percentage of dogs diagnosed with obesity. In all, they state that 34% of the dogs that they have treated in 2020 were obese. In 2011 they diagnosed 16% of dogs as being obese.

Obese tabby cat
Obese tabby cat. Picture: Pixabay.
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For cats, the situation is even worse. In 2011 they diagnosed 18% of domestic cats as being obese while in 2020 the percentage of obese cats had increased to 38%.

Between March 2022 December 2020 the percentage of dogs diagnosed as overweight or obese rose by 2.3% which they say is the largest increase in obese dogs seen at Banfield in the past 10 years.

The hospital chain sees 3 million pets annually and they want to help cat and dog owners better manage their companion animal’s weight and therefore their health. They offer what appears to be an online i.e. virtual, nutrition advice service with vet techs.

Obesity in both people and pets fuels ill-health such as the following:

  • Overweight dogs are almost 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with dermatologic issues such as skin infections. They believe that this is because it is harder for them to keep themselves clean. For cats it is worse: they’re seven times more likely to have skin infections due to obesity;
  • Cats are five times more likely to be diagnosed with conditions such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism. Dogs are four times more likely to suffer from these conditions;
  • Obesity results in orthopaedic conditions and mobility issues with joint and bone injuries. Overweight dogs are three times more likely to be diagnosed with these conditions;
  • Osteoarthritis affects more than 150,000 dogs annually in America. It is a progressive joint disease caused by inflammation and damage and obesity is a key element in the emergence of the disease;
  • Cats are almost 4 times more likely to have asthma and chronic bronchitis if they are obese. For dogs it is slightly less at two times more likely;
  • Urinary tract disease is four times more likely to affect overweight cats than cats of a normal weight.

The don’t know why cats and dogs are becoming fatter in America year-on-year. They do know, though, that 10% of cat and dog owners did not recognise obesity in their obese companion animal. They appear to have normalised the increased weight. Banfield say that there should be an awareness course for these people.

When questioned 46% of cat and dog owners said that they gave in to their pet’s demands for food or treats. This is the main cause. Comment: this appears to be about discipline! Or the lack of it. Or perhaps it is a desire to feel loved by their pet. Another problem is that 30% of pet owners are unsure about how to go about reducing the weight of their companion animal.

When a cat or dog owner is overweight themselves, they have mobility issues which makes it harder for them to exercise which they (29%) say prevents them from exercising their pet, which must mean a dog in this instance.

What is considered an obese cat?
What is considered an obese cat? Pic in public domain.

26% say that they haven’t got the time to exercise their pet. Comment: therefore, feed them less. And 23% say that they have not been paying enough attention to their pet’s diet.

Despite these admissions of failure, companion animal owners say that they worry about the health risks associated with obesity but 41% admit that they delay going to their veterinarian to discuss it.

Comment: I don’t think you need to go to the vet to discuss it! You just need to apply a bit of self-discipline on top of common sense which admittedly is difficult but it is the solution. Give yourself time to change both your diet and the diet of your dog or cat so that there is a gradual weight loss and then a stability of weight which is at the correct level. It takes time and a consistency of purpose. The rewards are big in terms of health. A healthy animal or person is a more contented for obvious reasons.


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