Pet Obesity Prevention Means Longer, Healthier Lives

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October 9 is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day, a day to recognize the importance of good nutrition and fitness for our pets. It is estimated that 54 percent of dogs and cats in the US are overweight or obese, placing them at a higher risk for arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and decreased life expectancy. For pet owners, the first step toward preventing and battling obesity is to learn the ideal weight range for their pet's breed. Then pet owners can help their pets live the healthiest and most active lives possible by integrating proper nutrition and fitness into their pet's lifestyle.

While it is common in our culture to equate food with love and affection, pet owners should not use overfeeding as a way to express care. Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of responsible pet ownership, but it is just as important to know when enough is enough. "No one overfeeds a pet with the intent to cause joint pain, heart and lung distress, diabetes and a shortened lifespan," said Carol Hillhouse, DVM, DABVP, a member of the Texas Veterinary Medical Association who practices at Carson County Veterinary Clinic in Panhandle, Texas.

Pet owners can easily conduct a body-condition scoring test at home by using their hands to estimate the amount of fat on their pet's abdomen, spine and ribs. Indicators of a healthy weight for a pet are that ribs are easily felt, there is no sagging stomach and the waist is apparent when viewed from above. Indicators of an overweight pet include difficulty feeling ribs under fat, a sagging stomach, a broad, flat back and no appearance of a defined waist.

While it can be an uncomfortable conversation to approach, pet owners can take the initiative when discussing their pet's weight with their veterinarian. A veterinarian can recommend a healthy weight goal as well as a diet and fitness plan for achieving it.

The Texas Veterinary Medical Association aims to raise awareness among Texas pet owners of the risks associated with pet obesity and suggest ways to prevent it. Talking to your veterinarian about the ideal weight range for your pet's breed, in addition to its nutritional and fitness needs, is the first step to a long, active life for your pet.

For more information on obesity risks, ideal pet weight ranges and body-condition scoring tests visit the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention's website at petobesityprevention.com.