Often when people see my German Shepherd, Condor, they ask me if he is ill. At first I was perplexed by this question, until I found out people thought he was ill because they thought he was too skinny. You can actually see Condor’s “waist” (called a “tuck” in dogs). You can also see the outline of his last rib. He isn’t sick; he is just the right weight.
So many of our companion dogs are overweight, that people often stop and take notice of a dog that is the correct weight and immediately think it is sick or someone is neglecting it.
In February the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) released a survey from veterinarians that said 53 percent of dogs and 55 percent of cats were overweight. WOW! That’s more than half of our pets. The study also found that many people do not realize their pet is overweight and when asked said they thought their pet was at an ideal weight.
When I talk to people about their pet’s weight, most people smile sheepishly and say something like, “but he looks at me with sad eyes.” Believe me, I know that look. Batman gives me that look and I have to constantly battle his weight. Because he does so many demos with me and he is out in public so often, he gets more treats than he should.
According to APOP treats are a major problem in combatting pet obesity. “Treats continue to be a major contributor to weight gain in pets. An online poll conducted in October 2011 by APOP of 210 pet owners found 93 percent of all dog and cat owners gave treats. 95 percent gave a commercial treat with 26 percent reporting they gave their pet treats three or more times a day. “Treats are the silent saboteur of slimming down.” Remarks APOP founder Dr. Ernie Ward. “Those tiny treats are often hiding a significant amount of calories.” Ward suggests offering single-ingredient rewards or fresh vegetables such as baby carrots, string beans, broccoli or other crunchy vegetables.”
Consider these examples from the APOP article:
■A premium pig ear (231 kcals) fed to a 40-pound dog is the equivalent of an adult human drinking six 12-ounce Coke Classics™ (840 kcals).
■A typical dog biscuit (25 to 27 kcals) fed to a 20-pound dog is the equivalent of an average adult human eating two Keebler EL Fudge Double Stuffed Sandwich Cookies (180 kcals).
YIKES! Batman ate two pig ears the other day during a demo. No wonder I’m having trouble with his weight.
Now the big question: why should you care if your pet is overweight? You love him all rounded and happy right? Well, if you love him, you should care. Overweight pets face the same health problems as overweight people. And if you own a breed that is prone to hip and knee problems, then you should especially pay attention to weight. I try and keep Condor at or slightly even below an ideal weight because he is a German shepherd and they are prone to hip issues. Plus, Condor is a working dog. When he is out on a search, he has to do a lot of running, jumping, etc. He is an athlete and I have to keep his body in condition for an athlete.
Obesity also adds up at the veterinarian’s office. The August issue of Angie’s List newsletter is devoted to pet issues, including obesity. This is from the article on obesity, “Obesity-related conditions drive up vet costs, says Dr. Jules Benson, vice president of veterinary services for Petplan, a highly rated pet insurance company that provides policies nationwide. Treatment for arthritis –a condition exacerbated by aging and extra weight pounding joins – increases vet bills by an average of $2,000 a year. Benson says surgery such as hip replacement that runs $3,000 to $6,000 per joint, drives costs higher still.”
Overweight pets also become diabetic; have high blood pressure, etc.
Another issue is that many pet owners feed their pets exactly what it says to feed on the side of the dog food bag. Dogs are individuals. A coach potato dog doesn’t need as much as a dog that plays catch all day. I change how much my dogs eat daily. If Batman is looking chunky, he gets less. If too much of Condor’s back rib starts to show, he gets more. On days when I do a lot of demos with Batman, and he gets a lot of treats, he just doesn’t get a meal at all.
I will leave you with two more examples from the APOP website:
■According to Dr. Ernie Ward, a 95-pound male Golden retriever is comparable to a 5’4” human female weighing 184 pounds or a 5’9” male that weighs 214 pounds.
■A 10-pound Chihuahua is comparable to a 5’4” human female weighing 242 pounds or a 5’9” male that weighs 282 pounds.
So, if you love your pet, watch his weight and don’t let his sad eyes sway you. Chances are he will live longer if he is at a healthy weight and you will enjoy those sad eyes for a few more years.