A Weighty Subject
By BARBARA JARVIE CASTIGLIA
The ongoing pandemic could be affecting your pooch’s waistline and, more importantly, his life expectancy. While pet obesity has been on the rise for a long time, more than 71 percent of pet professionals report that the last year has taken a significant toll on pets’ food intake and activity, according to a new survey from Hill’s Pet Nutrition.
It’s a weighty issue. Banfield analyzed health records of the millions of pets seen at its practice over the past decade, noting a 108 percent increase in the percentage of dogs diagnosed as overweight or obese, jumping from 16 percent in 2011 to 34 percent in 2020. And, data from March to December 2020 found that the number of dogs diagnosed as overweight or obese rose 2.3 percent–the largest increase in overweight/obese canines seen at Banfield in the past 10 years.
Like humans, overweight dogs have an increased risk for numerous illnesses and chronic conditions including diabetes, skin diseases, and joint issues.
So, what can you do as a pet parent to make sure your dog experiences optimal health and a long life span? Experts stress taking a proactive approach to your pet’s wellness and instilling effective behavioral modifications, which can be the best way to help your dog maintain a healthy weight.
Veterinarians have been able to pinpoint one factor contributing to a rise in pet weight: treats. With more people home, they report giving more treats to their pets. The upcoming holiday season is a time when many owners will be indulgent with their pets. Nearly 64 percent of pet parents admit to spoiling their pet during the season, according to Hill’s Science Diet.
Moderation is key when it comes to treats. Here are some ideas to ensure you don’t overdo it.
• Don’t give treats to appease bad behavior. (Don’t give in to begging!)
• Spread it out. While an occasional surprise treat is fun and will help you bond with your pet, don’t make it a daily habit.
• Try to reward without food. Purchase a new toy and spend time
playing with your pet, or pamper your dog with a grooming session instead.
• Look for high-quality, nutritionally dense treat options. Try frozen carrots or something similar. Be sure to ask your vet for suggestions tailored to your pet’s individual dietary needs.
• Avoid table scraps and people food not approved by your doctor.
• Stick to the advice that treats should be no more than 10 percent of your pet’s caloric intake.
• Make sure your pet gets adequate exercise and fresh air.
Pet parents should address feeding procedures with their veterinarian to understand best practices to achieve weight loss goals. Find out how to properly weigh your dog and monitor any changes to report back to your vet.
Personalized dog food brand, Just Right, surveyed pet parents and found that only 40 percent felt confident they were making smart nutritional moves. It’s important for pet parents to become nutritionally savvy, particularly because of the numerous pet food options available. Know what ingredients you are feeding your pet and the right portion sizes to give.
Remember, any small changes you make now in your pet’s diet can have a long-term impact in your pet’s overall wellness.