From the moment we open our eyes and turn on the television for our morning news till we close our cell phones and get ready for bed we are bombarded with how healthy we should be or how fit we should look.  Ads and social media tell us what to eat, what to wear, and how to look.  Most of this happens to us on a subconscious level and we react accordingly.  Hence, we are at the gym, thinking about going to the gym, joining gym or considering outside exercising in some way. But, what about our pets? Would you believe that in 2018, an estimated 60% of cats and 56% of dogs in the United States were overweight or obese?

It’s extremely hard to deny our pets treats when they look lovingly into our eyes. Whether cat, dog or cockatoo, our sweet fur friends have a way of tugging on our heart strings, getting us to dish more!  However, our pets cannot regulate their own weight. So, they rely on us to do just that for them. And, believe it or not, animals suffer greatly as a result of obesity.

Feeding our pet companions treats and scraps from the lunch or dinner table on a continual basis is usually doing more harm than good.  One of the complications of excess body weight is shortness of breath, accompanied by sleep apnoea. Back in the 1950s, this condition was known as “Pickwickian syndrome,” named after a portly gentleman in Charles Dicken’s first novel, “The Pickwick Papers.”  The disease, now known as obese hypoventilation syndrome, also affects our pets and can lead to serious breathing problems.

When pets are overweight, fat often is deposited around the rib cage, restricting the movement of the chest wall during respiration. It’s like wearing a corset 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week. Not only is it hard to take a deep breath, but it also makes sleep or moving around uncomfortable. Over time, this decreased ability to breathe leads to low blood-oxygen levels, which puts a strain on the heart, and ultimately can lead to heart failure.

So, what can you do to raise awareness?  On this day you can encourage people to take their pets to the local park or dog park.  Larger animals like dogs thrive from a regular exercise regime. The daily walk is not only good for dogs its good for you, too.  Cats and other animals and birds have their weight regulated via diet although some people have managed to get their cats walking off the pounds.  Be aware how much you are feeding scraps to your animals and perhaps restrict this habit until your pet has reached their target weight.

Many animal lovers get together on this day every year to celebrate Pet Obesity Awareness day.  Veterinarians often lead organized events where owners are encouraged to bring their dogs and cats along to receive complimentary health examination and screening.  Owners can then receive advice, tips and nutrition plans from professionals in the field to help them reduce the weight of the dog or cat and stop the problem escalating further tailored to their pets’ requirements.

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