Does your pet get a treat after every trick, walk or cute look? Or spend most afternoons lounging sleepily in the sun? Chances are, you said yes to at least one of these questions. Pet owners love to spoil their pets. But statistics show these practices are contributing to a much bigger problem that too many pet owners are ignoring until it’s too late.
The fact is, humans aren’t the only ones prone to obesity; our pets are incredibly vulnerable also. Studies show that 54% of dogs and cats in the United States are obese, which they’re not only at risk for heart and vision trouble later in their lives, they’re also carrying more weight than their joints are designed to handle, causing them experience spurts of pain every single day. And many times, the owner is completely unaware of the problem.
Our pet’s weight gain usually happens slowly in 3 seemingly harmless ways:
1) Too Much Time Alone
Bring home alone during the day, many pets are content to snooze away the time. If possible, spend a lunch break at home or hire a pet walker to get your pet up and moving a little in the middle of the day.
2) Too Much Food Left in the Bowl
Another common problem is overfeeding. If you eye-ball your pet’s daily food portions, you may be offering up too much at meal time. And if you’re one to keep your dogs bowl full at all times, your furry friend is likely consuming too many calories.
3) Too Many “Small Bites” that Add Up
This is the biggest culprit of all. While it seems innocent enough to sneak a bite or two to your pet, too many treats or calorie-rich table scraps can add up.
A study on humans revealed that every pound of excess weight exerts about 4 pounds of extra pressure on the knees. While similar studies haven’t been done on cats or dogs, research does tell us that 25% of overweight dogs develop serious joint complications. This is because extra weight puts extra weight puts pressure on the ligaments and cartilage intended to help joints function smoothly.
So How Can You Protect Your Pet’s From Weight Related Joint Problems?
As a pet owner, routinely monitoring your pet’s weight is an important safeguard against joint damage — that’s the obvious answer. Bu it can be hard to notice the occasional pounds creeping up in yourr dog or cat, so be sure to listen to your veterinarian’s advice. If your furry friend needs to shed a few pounds, add some extra walks and playtime, start measuring out food portions, and limit those treats (and table scraps… we’re all guilty of it).
Once your canine reaches what is considered adulthood for his breed, pay extra attention to joint care. Larger breeds or athletic dogs are good candidates for a joint supplement, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, or something with hyaluronic acid and omega fatty acids (look for omega-7, in particular). A memory foam bed is also helpful for distributing the dog’s weight while resting, minimizing joint stress.
Always check with your vet before adding any supplement, or if you notice any changes in mobility.
With some TLC and a healthy lifestyle, you’ll be able to keep joint issues to a minimum.
Debbie Swanson is a freelance writer, published in numerous national and local outlets. An avid vegetarian, animal lover and reader, she loves learning about healthy eating and finding natural cures for everyday ailments.