The obesity epidemic is affecting animals just like their human owners. The health implications for overweight pets mirror the problems we have, from diabetes and high blood pressure to heart disease.
We feed our pets all kinds of food for all kinds of reasons, but is what you are feeding them doing more harm than good? Farr Veterinary Hospital veterinarian Jae Chang says, "Obesity is the number one cause of disease in dogs in the U.S."
Dr. Chang treats the problems that come along with obesity in pets. "Obesity will cause an increased risk in diabetes and arthritis, most commonly," he said.
So what are you feeding Fido or your feline? Dr. Chang says brands are not as important as knowing whether or not your pet food manufacturer scraped by with only the required ingredients. "A certain amount of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. They put the ingredients together and then it's on the market. It's never been tested on animals or went through a feeding trial," said Dr. Chang.
Every pet food should have an AAFCO statement, Association of American Feed Control Officials, clarifying formulation versus feeding trial. "It will be right below the ingredients on the label," said Dr. Chang.
Once you spot the AAFCO statement, look for the key words, "feeding test." That will indicate that the food has been tested and proven to be safe and effective.
Next, make sure you are following the recommended serving size. "It's very important that you use an actual measuring cup, versus just a big plastic cup that you think is actually one cup," said Dr. Chang.
How can you tell whether or not your pet is overweight? Dr. Chang says you can typically feel it. "If you run your finger over their sides and it's just really soft, smooth and you can't feel their ribs, then that means they are probably overweight.:
What about those foods promising "organic," "all natural" or "filler free?" Dr. Chang says most of that is marketing and corn is actually great for pets. "Corn is high in carbohydrates, essential fatty acids and protein," he said.
Bad fats and mega calories are what we often share from the table. That is a big no!
To get your pets back to a healthy weight, go for regular walks and look for lower calorie foods if the scale does not budge.
If you do change your pet's food, mix in a small amount of the new food with the old food over the course of ten days, gradually increasing it. If you notice skin issues, vomiting or diarrhea, it could be a food allergy and you will need to talk to your vet.