We humans are well aware that there is a rampant obesity epidemic among us. Obesity can lead to chronic and life-threatening illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, joint problems, and bone problems. But recent statistics show that humans aren’t the only species contending with a growing obesity epidemic — it’s gone to the dogs (and cats), too.
According to recent data released by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, around 52.7% of dogs and 57.9% of cats are overweight or obese. Considering that more than 46 million households in America own dogs, and more than 38 million own cats, that’s tens of millions of canines and felines.
And while a pudgy purring pal may seem cute, the consequences of pet obesity are anything but. Common negative side effects of pet obesity include but are not limited to diabetes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, respiratory issues, kidney disease, cancer, and decreased life expectancy up to two and a half years.
And not only is this epidemic dangerous, it is also potentially extremely expensive for a pet owner.
“You can drop hundreds to thousands of over the life of a dog more than you would have had we kept him healthy in the first place,” said veterinarian Merten Pearson in an interview with CBS News in Amarillo, TX.
Indeed, the need for pet health care has certainly increased in the past few years. In 2014 alone, Nationwide pet insurance members reported more than $54 million in claims for various diseases and conditions that are often linked to pet obesity. This marks a sizable 14% increase from two years prior.
So what caused this marked and dangerous shift? Forbes writer Bruce Y. Lee surmises that it may lend crucial insight to the human obesity epidemic. He writes:
“You can’t blame plus size pet models, the pets for being lazy, or other things that people to tend to incorrectly blame people for with regard to obesity. As with the human obesity epidemic, the social, environmental, cultural and economic systems around pets are changing. For example, pet diets are changing with more calorie-dense and processed foods… just like human diets. Pets may not be moving around as much because their owners are becoming increasingly sedentary.”
So what can pet owners do to battle the bulge on their furry best friends? Lee suggests keeping an eye on the weight of your pet and to track it carefully. He also recommends taking your pet to the vet regularly and feeding them additive free food on a regimented schedule.