Animal Obesity Epidemic

In the short time that I have been seeing animals in my chiropractic practice, I have come to the same realization as many of my veterinary colleagues.  Our pets are fat!  It’s not much wonder that they are fat and that we don’t notice as our culture is one where obesity is commonplace.  Of course our animals will have a similar lifestyle as us.  The problem is this: too much food, too many treats, and too little exercise.  And we think, what does it matter, they’re just a little “round-ish”… what’s the harm…

What’s the harm!?  Its only life and death!  (And yes, that does apply to us humans).  If I seem to exaggerate, it’s only because we are afraid to be so blunt in our society.  Obesity, poor food choices, and lack of exercise are linked to endless health issues: heart disease, diabetes, stroke, even cancer.  There is another issue at play for our dear animals.  What happens to them when they can no longer get around as they need to?  We start to see them as suffering.  What happens then? Often, to keep them comfortable, we let them go.  Could we keep our animals longer if the fed and exercised them better and kept their joints healthier for longer?

One of my favorite parts of being an animal chiropractor is seeing the change in strength, flexibility, and ultimately in the function of these older animals.  Often they regain some of the spunk and energy they had as a younger animal.  They are more playful, more eager for a walk (read: will drag you back out the door too!)  The more weight an animal carries around for longer, the quicker their joints fail, in addition to all of their internal organs. This is why weight and exercise are such an important topic for me with my pet owners.  So, in practice, in younger dogs, I’m seeking to keep their weight healthy.  In older dogs we work on reducing it.  Sometimes that comes easily with just a suggestion and awareness of their animal’s excess weight and other times it involves people working with their vets as well.

I feel certain that it’s easier to have your animal lose weight than yourself.  You can resist their cravings and their sweet faces pleading for a treat easier than you can curb your own cravings.  We don’t have to deal with their emotional eating, like ours.  Start by cutting back their food slowly – remember it doesn’t have to and shouldn’t happen overnight.  In looking at the food bag, make sure you aren’t feeding them enough to push them up into the higher weight category.  And remember that all animals, just like humans, digest and metabolize food differently.  Consider using carrots or other veggies as treats for dogs.  Or smaller cat treats for dogs.  What about giving our animals just treats only once in awhile?  In our house, Jasper’s reward is attention and love and a pat on the head, not always a treat. In our case, Jasper WAS pudgy for awhile.  I was still feeding him like he was growing, and as his growth slowed, his girth sure increased!  Thanks to some help from vets and veterinary colleagues in my course, he is back on track. We all need to be vigilant on this one!

And if only exercise was that easy!  Why is it so difficult to convince people to take time and energy out of their day for themselves and their animals?  What isn’t pleasant about a walk?  Or play time with a pet?  It is good for everyone involved.  Just 30minutes of exercise for us makes a monumental difference in our health!  Find some fun active play with your animal to get them moving in any way that is fun for both of you! Please consider exercise an essential nutrient, and more valuable than TV time, getting dishes done, or having a spotless house! Body, mind, and spirit of you and your animal will thank you!!!

Take a look at the attached chart. You may already have seen it in my new year’s resolution blog, in which case I hope you took some action.  If not, take a peek and see if you gain insight into your pet’s health! animal weight chart for new year's resolution blog