America’s obesity epidemic isn’t just about us packing on the pounds, spiking our risk of developing deadly diseases.
The same thing is happening to our dogs — especially in Minnesota, according to Banfield Pet Hospital’s newly released 2012 State of Pet Health Report.
The report produced by the massive veterinary conglomerate (Banfield operates more than 800 pet hospitals in 43 states) analyzes medical data from more than two million dogs per year between 2006 and 2011. These findings reveal that American pets are having their own obesity epidemic, with the number of overweight and obese canines seen by vets increasing by nearly 40 percent in the last five years.
The state with the largest number of fat dogs is Minnesota, followed by South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Nevada, Colorado, and Massachusetts. The states with the fewest are Louisiana, Connecticut, Mississippi, and New York, according to the report.
“Over the past five years, many chronic conditions have continued to increase, in some instances at an alarming rate,” writes Banfield’s Chief Medical Officer Jeffrey Klausner. “The overweight and obesity findings are some of the most concerning. … When pets are diagnosed as overweight, their waistline is not the only concern; the condition is associated with other serious diseases such as arthritis, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, and hypothyroidism.”
How can you tell whether your dog is overweight? First, take a good honest look.
“When their ribs, spine, and hip bones can barely be felt when touching their body, a defined waist cannot be seen and belly fat is noticeable,” it’s time to ask the vet about exercise, illness, and dietary changes, warns the report.
As for what’s fattening up our pals, the report points to people food. “To keep pets at a healthy weight, the treats they receive each day should be limited to less than 10 percent of their daily caloric requirements and, when treats are given, the amount of food fed each day should then be reduced by 10 percent. … Pet owners do not realize that even in small quantities, human food can represent a large percent of a pet’s daily caloric requirement.”
The 114 calories in one ounce of cheese and the 147 calories in a single beef hot dog make up a whopping 33 and 43 percent, respectively, of a small dog’s daily caloric requirement.
Given the animal obesity epidemic, it’s no surprise that the prevalence of canine arthritis has soared 38 percent in the last five years. Rates of other diseases have increased as well. Even so, 76 percent of dog owners remain in denial and “believe their pet is just the right weight,” reads the report.
Looks like that 76 percent could use a good run in the park — as could we all.