Too many treats contributing to an early death for pets - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Too many treats, too much food contributing to an early death for pets

Updated: May 8, 2014 09:00 PM
Source: America Now Source: America Now

Millions of well-meaning pet owners are putting their dog or cat's life in jeopardy.

Some of the things pet owners do each day could cause their pet to suffer a serious illnesses as they mature, or even cause an early death.

For good behavior, Jeff Neely rewards his dog, Jake, with a treat.

"There you go," Neely said. "Want another one? You gotta be good. Let me see your paw."

In Jake's case, he gets several treats. No harm – right?

Not necessarily.

Too many treats and heaping scoops of food are packing pounds on our pooches.

Jake's weight problem started six years when he was a pup.

"Instead of one cup in the morning and one cup at night, it was two cups in the morning and two cups at night," Neely recalled.

So, why was he feeding Jake so much food? Neely says he was simply following the feeding recommendations on the dog food bag, but what he didn't realize is that Jake was getting more food than he needed.

"The more we feed, the more pet food we buy," said Veterinarian Kay Wahl

It's important for pet owners to talk with a vet about their pet's ideal weight, and how often and how much to feed one's pet.

Most the feeding schedules on dog food bags are formulated for active dogs.

"Unfortunately in our society, there are not a lot of active dogs," Wahl said. "Most of them are sitting on the couch or going for very short walks, so the calorie intake over the exercise is very much skewed."

According to the Association for Pet Obesity, veterinary clinics surveyed in 36 states reported more than half of the dogs and cats evaluated were overweight or obese.

"I think that's the number one cause of disease in our pets today," Wahl said.       

Some of these diseases include diabetes, osteoarthritis, hypertension and cancer.

Well-meaning pet owners who give their dog or cat table scraps, extra food, or too many treats, could be causing their pet to die sooner.

"We are shortening their life span by up to 1.8 years," Wahl said. 

Stewart is a 12-year-old cat and he tips the scales at nearly 21 pounds.

"I saw Stewart about a month ago," and Wahl added, "We had a serious discussion about obesity."    

Wahl told Stewart's owner it was time to do something or else her cat may not live very long.

"I had his mom start moving his food bowl so he gets to eat upstairs sometime and downstairs other times," and Wahl added, "He's got to run up and down stairs--kitty stairmaster!"

Ask your vet to help you determine your pet's optimal weight.

"There's actually very precise formulas we can work out on how many calories a day your pet should be ingesting, how many calories are in that cup of food that you're feeding, and make recommendations from there," Wahl said. 

Use scales at home to weigh your pet or take them to your vet for a regular weigh-in between annual exams. Most vets do not charge a fee for just a weigh in.

As for those treats, avoid giving the big one to your pet. 

"If you can't break your habit of giving them a treat, at least decrease the amount of treat," Wahl recommended.

If you're supposed to give them one cup per meal, don't give them any extra.

Wahl says this is extremely importance.

"I have a lot of clients come in and say, they're using a coffee cup," she said. "Well, look in your cabinet. Some coffee cups are small, some coffee cups are big gulp cups. So, they actually need to use a dry measure one cup device."

Remember, the most important decision you'll make for your pet is deciding what and how much to feed it. Your pet's life depends on it.

Instead of feeding your pet processed treats from a store, try giving them small pieces of apples, carrots, broccoli or cucumber.

There is a rather extensive list of toxic fruits and vegetables you should never give them which includes – grapes, raw onions and macadamia nuts.

Copyright 2014 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

Additional Information:

The following information is from the American Veterinary Medical Association:

  • Effects of diet restriction on life span and age-related changes in dogs
  • Test group fed 25% less than controls for life
  • Test group lived 1.8 years longer than controls
  • Also later onset of osteoarthritis, chronic disease
  • Longer life, delayed disease in dogs fed 25% less

AVMA Collections: Obesity in dogs summary (Source: https://www.avma.org/News/Journals/Collections/Pages/AVMA-Collections-Obesity-in-dogs-summary.aspx).

  • While the CDC data describe the human population, other studies indicate that a substantial proportion of American pets also have become obese. Obesity has been reported to be the most common nutritional disorder in dogs, with an estimated prevalence of approximately 25%.

The following information is from the American Animal Hospital Association (Source: http://www.aahanet.org/blog/NewStat/post/2013/03/20/619052/Weight-issues-continue-to-expand-for-US-dogs-and-cats.aspx)

  • The number of overweight and obese dogs and cats continued its upward trend in 2012, with more cats than ever tipping the scales at unhealthy weights.
  • The 2012 National Pet Obesity Survey published by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) also revealed that despite the rising numbers of overweight pets, many people in the United States are oblivious to their pets' declining health.
  • According to 121 veterinary clinics surveyed in 36 states, 52.5 percent of dogs and 58.3 percent of cats they examined were overweight or obese. Those percentages project out to an estimated 80 million dogs and cats in the United States that are overweight or obese, and therefore vulnerable to serious health conditions such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, hypertension, and certain cancers, APOP reported.
  • The numbers for cats are especially noteworthy because they indicate that the number of overweight or obese cats is at an all-time high.
  • Some dog breeds appear to be more at risk for weight problems than others, APOP reported in the survey. Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers were two of the most commonly overweight or obese pure breeds, at 58.9 percent and 62.7 percent, respectively. In contrast, German shepherds were one of the least overweight breeds, with a pure breed obesity rate of 2.1 percent.
    • The 2012 survey reinforced results from previous surveys indicating that many pet owners view their overweight pets as being within a normal weight range. "In this survey, approximately 45 percent of cat and dog owners assessed their pet as having a normal body weight when the veterinarian assessed the pet to be overweight," said Dr. Joe Bartges, from the University of Tennessee's College of Veterinary Medicine.
    • The difference in perception between owners and veterinarians can be challenging for veterinarians, who need to first alert owners to the problem and then convince them of the need for immediate weight-management measures, said Dr. Ernie Ward, APOP founder and lead veterinarian.
    • One of the main takeaways from the 2012 survey is that preventive care is more necessary than ever in order to prevent weight-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes, musculoskeletal conditions, and hypertension, according to Ward.
    • "Our goal is to help pets and people live longer, healthier, and pain-free lives by maintaining a healthy weight, proper nutrition, and physical activity," Ward said. "The most important decision a pet owner makes each day is what they choose to feed their pet. Choose wisely. Your pet's life depends on it."

The following information is from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (Source: http://www.petobesityprevention.com/about/)

  • Did you realize a 12 pound Yorkie is the same as an average female weighing 218 pounds and a 14 pound cat is equivalent to a 237 pound man? Did you consider that a 90 pound female Labrador retriever is equal to a 186 pound 5' 4" female

Kibble Crack – Vet Exposes Sugary Secret of Pet Treats (Source: http://www.petobesityprevention.com/kibble-crack-%e2%80%93-vet-exposes-sugary-secret-of-pet-treats/

  • Today's pet treats aren't the dog bones of your childhood. Over the past decade, a surprising ingredient has begun to appear on pet treat ingredient lists: sugar.
  • And the problem is huge. APOP estimates that 45% of US dogs and 58% of cats are too heavy. That equals an estimated 89 million pets that are at high risk for developing conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and more.
  • Ward says the problem is linked to money – lots of it. With US pet treat sales estimated to be nearly $2 billion in 2010, the treat bowl has turned golden. "Sugar is incredibly attractive to dogs. If a dog gobbles a treat quickly, an owner is more likely to give another – and another.  This adds up to more sales – and profits. In the race for pet treat profits, our pets' health is being bankrupted."
  • Ward also contends that added sugar has behavioral consequences. "Numerous studies in rats demonstrate that overfeeding sugar can create symptoms similar to drug addiction. A dog's daily sweet treat may be contributing to overeating and other undesirable behaviors. This is why I call today's high-sugar treats ‘kibble crack.'"
  • Pet owners must begin to question why there is sugar in a treat that claims to help teeth."
  • Ultimately both the pet food industry and Ward have pet's best interest at heart. "Today we have some of the best pet foods and treats we've ever had. For that, I am grateful. At the same time, we're seeing some of the unhealthiest products masquerading as wholesome and nutritious. It's time we reveal the sugary secret that is contributing to obesity in pets."

The following information is from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention in an online article entitled "Pet Obesity Rates Rise, Cats Heavier Than Ever" (Source: http://www.petobesityprevention.com/2012-national-pet-obesity-survey-results/)

  • U.S. pet obesity rates continued to increase in 2012 with the number of overweight cats reaching an all-time high. The sixth annual National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) found 52.5 percent of dogs and 58.3 percent of cats to be overweight or obese by their veterinarian.
  • That equals approximately 80 million U.S. dogs and cats at increased risk for weight-related disorders such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, hypertension and many cancers.
  • "Pet obesity remains the leading health threat to our nation's pets." states APOP's founder and lead veterinarian for the survey Dr. Ernie Ward. "We continue to see an escalation in the number of overweight cats and an explosion in the number of type 2 diabetes cases."
  • There is a vast population of overweight cats and dogs facing an epidemic of diabetes. The best preventive measure a pet owner can make is to keep their dog or cat at a healthy weight. Diabetes is far easier to prevent than treat, especially when twice daily insulin injections are needed."
  • Veterinary nutritionist and internal medicine specialist at the University of Tennessee's College of Veterinary Medicine Dr. Joe Bartges cautions that many pet owners don't recognize when their pet is overweight. "In this survey, approximately 45 percent of cat and dog owners assessed their pet as having a normal body weight when the veterinarian assessed the pet to be overweight." Dr. Ward calls the phenomenon of incorrectly evaluating an overweight pet as normal "the fat gap."
  • Certain breeds showed greater risk for excess weight. Veterinary healthcare providers classified 58.9 percent of Labrador retrievers and 62.7 percent of golden retrievers surveyed as overweight or obese. Surgical specialist Dr. Steve Budsberg of the University of Georgia is particularly concerned about the development of weight-related musculoskeletal conditions. "Once again, our data shows that obesity is rampant and we are certainly setting up more and more dogs and cats for joint problems during their lives. This results in hundreds of millions of dollars in medical bills and countless surgical procedures for weight-related conditions. As a veterinary surgeon I find this extremely frustrating; this disease is easily treatable and even simpler to prevent. Feed your pet less, exercise them more and see your veterinarian at least once a year."
  • Dr. Ward also sees a clear connection between pet and childhood obesity rates. "The causes of pet and childhood obesity are largely the same: too many high-calorie foods and snacks combined with too little physical activity. Parents need to encourage children to put down their video games and pick up the dog leash to go for a walk. Instead of snacking on sugary treats, share crunchy vegetables with your dog. Eat more whole foods instead of highly processed fast food."
  • The 2012 survey, conducted in October and December 2012, analyzed data from 121 veterinary clinics in 36 states
  • 1,485 dogs and 450 cats were assessed
  • Cats: 4.4% male, 49.6% male neutered, 6.2% female, 39.8% female spayed
  • Dogs: 8.4% male, 39.1% male neutered, 6.0% female, 46.5% female spayed
  • Median age of surveyed pets: Dogs – 6 years of age, Cats – 6 years of age
  • Dogs and cats were classified by veterinary clinics as: BCS 1 – Underweight, BCS 2 – Thin but normal, BCS 3 – Ideal weight, BCS 4 – Overweight, BCS 5 – Obese
  • Based on 2012 survey results and 2012 American Veterinary Medical Association data 80 million U.S. dogs and cats are overweight or obese.
  • Based on 2012 survey results and 2012 American Veterinary Medical Association data
    • An estimated 43.2 million cats or 58.3% are overweight or obese (74.1 million U.S. pet cats, 2012 AVMA)
      • 29.3 million cats BCS 4 – Overweight
      • 13.9 million cats BCS 5 – Obese
    • An estimated 36.7 million dogs or 52.5% are overweight or obese (70 million U.S. pet dogs, 2012 AVMA)
      • 25.7 million dogs BCS 4 – Overweight
      • 11 million dogs BCS 5 – Obese
  • Labrador retrievers were the most common pure breed in the study (141/1485, 9.5% total surveyed)
    • 58.9% were classified as overweight or obese
      • 42.6% – Overweight
      • 16.3% – Obese
  • German shepherds had the lowest reported pure breed Obesity (BCS 5) rate of 2.1%
  • 45.8% of dog owners incorrectly identified their overweight or obese dogs as "normal weight" when asked by their veterinary clinic to assess their pet's current body condition (pet owner's choices were too thin, normal, overweight, obese)
  • 45.3% of cat owners incorrectly identified their overweight or obese cats as "normal weight" when asked by their veterinary clinic to assess their pet's current body condition (pet owner's choices were too thin, normal, overweight, obese)
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