Pet Obesity: The Cost of Having an Overweight Dog
National Pet Obesity Awareness Day was created by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) to help raise awareness of both the seriousness of and pervasiveness of the pet obesity problem we have in the U.S. It also provides the perfect opportunity to highlight the substantial financial cost to owners with overweight pets.
If a much shorter and lower quality life for your dog is not reason enough to change the way you feed and exercise your pet, perhaps the realization of how costly it can be to have an overweight dog will be the impetus to change your behavior.
As we have reported previously, pet obesity is a major problem in the U.S. According to the 2013 APOP survey, almost 53% of dogs and 58% of cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Perhaps even worse, 17% of all dogs are considered obese. Studies in some other countries, like the United Kingdom, show that this problem exists globally as well.
The Financial Costs of Having an Overweight Pet
In 2009, researchers at the Michigan State veterinary hospital conducted a study to determine the annual treatment costs associated with common canine and feline diseases and disorders. The results for dogs are shown in the Table below.
Annual Costs of Common Canine Diseases
|Annual Veterinary Treatment Costs, Canine Diseases|
|Obesity + ruptured ACL||$2,367|
|Chronic kidney disease||$1,823|
See our post at SlimKitty.com for the costs for cats.
The cost to treat a dog with any one of these disorders is obviously significant. Because these are estimated annual costs, a pet’s total treatment costs over a lifetime could easily exceed $10,000 depending on the disease and age at diagnosis. Even worse, an overweight pet might develop multiple diseases due to their weight problem raising the treatment costs even higher.
An overweight pet is more susceptible to many diseases and orthopedic disorders. In fact, virtually all of the conditions listed above are more likely to occur in overweight pets than in properly weighing pets. According to APOP, the primary risks of overweight pets include:
- Heart and Respiratory Disease
- High Blood Pressure (hypertension)
- Many Forms of Cancer
- Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes
- Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injury (ACL)
- Kidney Disease
- Decreased life expectancy (up to 2.5 years)
Although pancreatitis is not on the APOP list, overweight pets have a higher risk factor for this than do healthy weight pets.
In 2011 alone, pet insurance claims for diabetes increased by 253 percent, according to Petplan USA, a pet insurance company. Claims for heart disease and arthritis rose by 32 percent and by 348 percent respectively. The fatter our pets get, the more prevalent are the associated diseases.
Steps to Keep your Pet Lean and Healthy
The decisions that you make about your pet’s food are the most important factors that will determine if your pet is overweight or not. First and foremost is how much you feed your pet. Overfeeding, pouring too much food and neglecting to take into account treats, is the single biggest driver of the pet obesity problem. (For more details on how to determine how much to feed your pet, read How Much Should I Feed my Dog)
Secondly, feeding your pet appropriate and high quality food will ensure that your pet is provided a balanced diet, free of fillers and potentially harmful artificial additives. The tips below will help you develop a food strategy that will keep your pet trim and healthy.
- Consult with your veterinarian to come up with a health assessment and target weight for your pet.
- Learn how many calories your pet needs each day. Your pet’s daily calorie requirement is primarily dependent on their size and level of activity.
- Learn how many calories are in your pet’s foods and treats. Portion accordingly. The feeding instructions on most food labels are too general and not always appropriate for a specific pet.
- Understand the ingredients in your pet’s foods and how they might impact the protein to fat ratio in the food and avoid foods with unhealthy fillers or artificial additives. Most normal dogs and cats require a diet that is high in protein and fat. Unfortunately, many pet foods are high in carbohydrates. Also, many pet foods are laden with fillers or artificial additives that at best, provide little nutritional value and at worst, could be potentially harmful to your pet.
- Add moderate to high intensity exercise if possible each week. Although not directly related to the food decision, exercising your pet regularly is an important aspect of their overall health and body condition. Mix in higher intensity exercises once or twice a week if your pet is approved to do so by your vet. The higher intensity sessions can boost their daily calorie burn and also provide many other benefits to their body and mind.
- Observe your pet’s body condition and tweak your plan over time.
However you do it, make it a priority to keep your dog at the proper weight. Just think, a little discipline around your pet food and feeding regime can end up saving you lots of money in vet and medicine costs, while possibly extending your dog’s life by as much as 10-20%.
Can you really afford to have an overweight dog?
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