According to Dr. Jim Berry, a veterinarian and member of CVMA:
"Overall, the research suggests that addressing the exercise, nutritional and dental care needs of pets is key to enhancing pet health and wellness in the country."
"Pet owners need a better understanding of the health implications of inadequate exercise of their pets and the importance of basic decisions, such as what and how to feed them. Otherwise their pets might be at risk for a range of broader health issues, such as heart disease, diabetes and mobility issues."
The study revealed Canadian pet owners spend much more time watching TV and surfing the Internet than exercising their pets on both weekdays and weekends.
Other findings from the Canadian study:
- Pet owners are twice as likely to buy pet food based on how well their dog or cat likes it rather than for its nutritional quality.
- Less than 20 percent of owners feed the recommended amount of pet food, which means over 80 percent are over feeding their dog or cat.
- Only 17 percent of owners read pet food ingredient labels.
- Over half of cat owners free-feed their pets, as well as over 30 percent of dog owners.
- Veterinarians surveyed believe the majority of dogs and cats don't get enough exercise; the majority also cited overfeeding as the most common mistake pet owners make.
Approximately 35 percent of Canadian households have a dog, and 38 percent have a cat. There are almost 8 million cats and 6 million dogs in Canada.
It seems our neighbors to the north are in the same boat U.S. pet owners are when it comes to over feeding and under exercising four-legged family members.
According to the results of Canada's Pet Wellness Report, our countries also have similar challenges in providing species-appropriate nutrition to pets.
Too Many Fat Pets
The exploding number of overweight and obese companion animals is a catastrophe created entirely by humans – pet owners, veterinarians, and pet food manufacturers.
Domesticated dogs and cats have no choice but to eat what we feed them and exercise as we allow it. Wild canines and felines, while they have other challenges to survival, follow their natural instinct to eat species-appropriate food and be physically active.
Think about it – have you ever seen a fat, lumbering wild dog or feral cat?
Risk factors for overweight and obese pets include:
- Diet and feeding habits. Pet food high in carbohydrates and fats is the biggest cause of obesity in both dogs and cats. Too many treats is also a problem, as is an “all-day-buffet” free-feeding schedule in which your pet’s bowl is kept constantly full.
- Activity level. Lack of sufficient exercise increases the risk of obesity in your pet.
- Age. The risk of overweight increases as your dog or cat gets up in years.
- Gender. Neutered dogs of both sexes are twice as likely to be overweight as intact dogs. Male cats are genetically predisposed to become heavy, and the risk increases if your male kitty is neutered.
- Breed. Specific breeds of dogs are more apt to be overweight than others, including Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Dalmatians, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Shetland Sheepdogs and mixed breeds.
How Obesity Destroys Your Pet's Health and Longevity
Many of the same problems overweight humans face can take down your pet as well, including:
Your dog or cat already has a short lifespan compared to yours. If you spend a decade or so being overweight and sedentary, chances are you'll still have plenty of time to get back in shape and regain your vitality.
Your obese pet, on the other hand, doesn't have the luxury of time. He will spend the better part of his brief existence unable to be the natural athlete he was designed to be, and riddled with costly health problems that can devastate his quality of life.
How to Keep Your Pet at a Healthy Weight
If your pet is a good weight -- and I recommend you confirm this with your vet, since many pet owners don't realize they have an overweight dog or cat -- the best thing you can do for her health is keep her at that weight.
The best way to keep your pet slim and trim is through:
- Portion control. Feed your dog or cat a high protein, low carb diet and moderate the portions to control the amount of calories she consumes. Don’t free-feed, otherwise known as the all day, all-she-can-eat buffet.
- Adequate exercise. 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.
- Minimal treats. Any treats you give your pet should be protein-based and in small amounts. Be sure to include the calories in treats as part of the daily total.
If your dog is overweight, I recommend you review my video and article Why Heavy Dogs are Becoming the Norm.
If your pet is a chunky feline, take a look at Valuable Tips for Helping Your Heavy Cat.
It's Not Just About the Quantity of Food … Quality is Just as Important
Dogs and cats are carnivores, and carnivores eat meat. Nature has designed your pet such that he needs primarily high-quality protein in his diet to be healthy.
Unfortunately, the majority of popular, affordable pet foods on the market today are not species-appropriate nutrition for dogs and cats. Many are stuffed with poor quality protein, grains and other carbohydrates, junk fillers, sugar and other additives, preservatives, flavor enhancers, and other dodgy stuff. Almost none of those ingredients exist in the natural, healthy diet of dogs and cats in the wild.
The very best way to nourish your carnivorous pet is with a balanced raw diet.
Whether you feed raw, make homemade meals for your furry companion, or feed commercially prepared diets, it's important to know the difference between high quality and lesser quality ingredients.
For an in-depth look at how to recognize the best and worst quality pet foods available on the market today, I recommend you view my two-part video series filmed at an upscale pet boutique in Madison, Wisconsin called Bad Dog Frida.