by Jordan Walker
If a pet is obese, it probably consumes more calories than it needs. Perhaps the food has too many calories, or the pet is just being given too much food. When a pet is obese, it accumulates fat tissue, which eventually weighs down on a pet’s organs. In the UK and US, millions of pets are diagnosed as obese.
How to tell if a pet is overweight
Although the vet is always the qualified professional who should make the diagnosis, a pet owner can perform an informal inspection. A typical obese pet is almost always round in shape when viewed from above. Ribs are difficult to feel for without having to put a bit of pressure on the pet’s flesh because fat is likely covering them. Obese four-legged pets lack a waist and have a tummy bulge, while obese birds have very rounded breast areas and a palpable layer of fat. Still, pet owners need to visit the vet for a professional opinion.
Being overweight or obese is something humans don’t want for themselves or their pets. Obesity not only limits the movement ofpets, it also robs them of their vitality and creates conditions for developing various health problems. Since pets cannot decide which and how much food is good for them, pet owners are responsible for looking after the kind and amount of food pets should eat. Unfortunately, many pet parents make mistakes in feeding their pets.
Free-feeding is the practice of always keeping the food bowl filled whether pets are hungry or not. This allows pets to eat how much they want whenever they want. What’s more, pets tend to keep on eating even when they are not hungry. While free-feeding makes sure pets don’t go hungry, pet owners are actually allowing their pets to grow out and become obese.
Wrong food, wrong portions
Sometimes, owners are unable match the amount they feed their pet to its unique needs. On other times, it’s feeding the wrong kind of food altogether. Giving food in excessive or in lower portions than needed fails to meet a pet’s nutritional requirements, leading to poor health. How much a pet needs depends on its lifestyle and life stage, such as whether the pet gets lots of activity or whether it is young, adult, or senior. On other times, pet owners give the wrong food, thinking all pet foods are the same. For example, as silly as it seems, cats get fed with dog food, which provides lesser and even different nutrients from what a cat needs. Sometimes, some pet owners who have sworn off meat decide to impose their diets on their pets. Cats are one kind of pet that can only get what they need from meats and can never be vegetarians. Yet, there are cat owners who force a vegetarian diet on their cats.
Giving table scraps
Not all “human” foods are created equal. Some can promote good health in pets, while others are downright toxic to them. What is good for humans is not necessarily good for pets. In fact, foods considered good for humans are poisonous to pets. If they do decide to share their pantry stores with their pets, pet owners should know which foods are safe to feed pets. Human-appropriate but pet-toxic foods include chocolate, dairy, coffee, avocado, grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, and macadamia nuts. This list is not comprehensive. If pet owners decide to feed table scraps, they should take extra care that the scraps given do not contain ingredients that are harmful to pets. In addition, since giving table scraps can unbalance a pet’s diet, scraps should be considered as treats instead. As well, getting into the habit of tossing treats from the table encourages undesirable behaviors like begging, counter surfing, and food stealing.
Giving treats is important in pet training and reward. However, treats are not meant to replace a full meal, although they can be part of one. Pet owners should keep in mind that the amount of treats they give should be taken off from – not be given on top of – the total amount of food that a pet eats. What’s more, pet owners should note that treats generally have higher calorie contents than a pet’s regular food. In general, treats should not consist more than 20 percent of a pet’s total daily food.
Too many supplements
Pet owners have humanized pets at such a rate that what practices they adopt for good health they also apply to their pets. This is true with taking supplements. Humans take supplements to cover the nutritional gaps in their diets, and pet owners apply the same idea with their pets. However, if the pet food recommended by the vet or fed to the pet is already balanced, supplements are not necessary. In fact, continuing to give these add-ons to pets can raise the nutrients the pet is already getting to toxic levels. Too much of a good thing is truly bad. Unless the vet says so, pet owners should lay their pets off supplements.
Obesity and other malnutrition conditions should be treated by pet owners as serious issues. Obesity can lead to heart problems, diabetes, and diseases of the skin, liver, and joints. However, malnutrition in general reduces a pet’s quality of life and can even take away years from a pet’s life. As beloved members of the family, pets deserve to be kept in good health. Looking after their pets’ wellbeing is every pet parent’s duty and the ultimate way of showing their affection.
Jordan is the lead content curator for Coops And Cages, as well as a couple of other pet related blogs. His passion for animals is only matched by his love for ‘attempting’ to play the guitar. If you would like to catch him, you can via Google+ or Twitter: @CoopsAndCages.