It is estimated about 90 million dogs and cats in the U.S. are not only overweight, but obese, and part of the problem is the sugar pet food manufacturers are now adding to pet treats.
Limiting treats to a very small percentage of a pet's diet is a key to helping your dog or cat stay fit and trim. And swapping fresh human foods for processed pet treats is also a good idea.
According to PetFoodIndustry.com:
"Apples, berries and carrots, for example, are good for dogs, while salmon or tuna flakes make good healthy cat treats."
According to Health Day News:
A not-so surprising ingredient is now appearing in those treats your pet craves.
Over the past five years, sugar has increasingly been added to some popular brands of dog and cat treats to make them more palatable and profitable, according to veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward.
"Dogs, like humans, have a sweet tooth, and manufacturers know this," says Dr. Ward, founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). "If a dog gobbles a treat quickly, an owner is more likely to give another, and another."
Fact: Most Pet Consumables Are Not Produced with Your Pet's Health in Mind
None of you who read my newsletter regularly will be surprised to learn pet food companies have been sneaking ever increasing amounts of sugar into treats in recent years.
Poor quality pet food rules the marketplace.
Species-appropriate dog and cat food formulas made from human-grade ingredients account for less than 10 percent of commercially available pet diets. It just stands to reason the treats sold by these pet food giants are even less nutritious.
The simple but troubling truth is the companies producing pet food for the masses are primarily motivated by profit -- not by the health of the animals eating their low quality, biologically unsuitable formulas.
And let's not forget the additives. Most low-end pet foods are loaded with salt, fats and sugars, because these additives are known to create addictions (yep, addictions) in your pet.
For example, many brands of the most popular dog foods are sprayed with a top coat of fat your pup craves and comes to expect.
Once your dog or cat is addicted to a brand of pet food, putting a healthier alternative in front of her will cause her to turn up her nose and walk away from her bowl.
Pet food manufacturers understand your buying habits. If they can create an addiction in your pet for one of their formulas, they know you'll buy that brand over and over again because you want to give your dog or cat the food she really enjoys.
Trick or Treat?
The same game played with pet food formulas is also played with treats.
The pet food manufacturers making sugar-laden treats for your dog or cat care about how many packages you buy – not how fat and sick with diseases like insulin resistance and diabetes your pet might become.
Palatability isn't the only reason sugar is added to pet food, either.
According to Dr. Lerner of UC Davis, "Sugar has a role in the physical and taste characteristics of many products, helping to mask bitter flavors imparted by acidifying agents, or changing the texture of specific treat types," she said.
To keep your pet at a healthy weight, Dr. Ward of APOP suggests you take a pass on treats that have any type of sugar – for example, dextrose, fructose or sucrose – as one of the top three ingredients on the package label.
My recommendation is to avoid any pet treat containing:
- Coatings, flavorings, or additives (including any type of sugar)
- Grains or unnecessary fillers
- Rendered animal by-products
- Chemicals or artificial preservatives
- High-allergenic potential glutens
Safe, healthy human food treats like fruits and veggies, or all-natural, high quality treats should be no more than 10 percent of your pet's daily caloric intake. And if you limit treats to training rewards only, your pet will learn treats are special and not something he can expect every day.
Top Tips for Helping a Heavy Pet Lose Weight
- Practice portion control. Remember, regardless of her weight, your pet still needs a diet high in protein. Translation: feed your dog or cat a balanced, species-appropriate diet and moderate the portions to control the amount of calories she consumes. Never serve an all-day, all-you-can-eat buffet to an overweight pet.
- Exercise your pet. An overweight body slims down by moving more and eating less. So along with calorie restriction through portion control, it's also really important that you set up a good exercise program for your dog or cat. Daily aerobic activity is one of the best ways to build muscle tone, and muscle tone decreases the amount of fat that your pet carries around. Muscle mass also increases metabolism, which helps burn calories.
- Minimize treats. You can still give your pet treats, but make most of them protein-based and feed very small amounts at scheduled times throughout the day, or just as training rewards. Make sure to include the calories in treats as part of your portion control plan.