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Pets across the country are adding on more pounds than is healthy – something that has been easier to do since the pandemic began.
Take MabelDog, a 6 year old Jack Russell and Dachshund mix. She should weigh 11 pounds, maybe 12. But last year, when the pandemic turned the world of owner Kathryn Howards into “a two-bedroom apartment,” the weight rose steadily for both of them.
“It was emotional eating on our part,” says Howard, 59, of Irondequoit, New York, referring to herself and her 18-year-old son. “We had more snacks, so we gave her more snacks. Then we got to a point where some of our food was ready for them. “
MabelDog has gained up to 18 pounds.
She is not alone. A recent survey by dog technology company Fi, in partnership with Pumpkin Pet Insurance, found that 36 percent of 1,000 dog owners surveyed said their dogs “gained weight during the pandemic” despite being more active than normal had. More than 40 percent of owners admitted giving their pets extra treats or table scraps.
The new findings “continue a trend that has already begun”, according to the latest figures from the Association for the Prevention of Animal Obesity. In 2018, an estimated 60 percent of cats and 56 percent of dogs in the United States were overweight or obese, the association found. Obesity is indeed the number one health threat to pets as it affects almost every biological system in their body. It can lead to diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, kidney failure, cancer, and other diseases.
“What I see is the end of the spectrum that people don’t like to talk about and hopefully never need to see,” says internationally acclaimed veterinarian Ernie Ward, founder of the association and author of three books, including Chow Hounds: Why Our Dogs Become thicker.
With owners like Howard working from home during the pandemic, people had more options to share snacks with their furry friends.
“I have a lot of critics who say that’s not really a problem,” says Ward, 54, of Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. “But obesity is not a problem until it is a disaster. In between there is very little. And I see that all the time. That’s the frustrating part for me. “
Get the portion control under control
Monitoring food intake “is the best thing to start” when trying to help your pet lose weight, says Emily McCann, an assistant veterinarian at Firehouse Animal Health Center in Kyle, Texas.
In addition to using a measuring cup when feeding, McCann – who sees her fair share of obesity-related problems, including endocrine disorders, torn ligaments, and urinary tract problems – recommends getting more exercise through longer walks and extra play time and swaps High calorie treats versus healthier options like carrots and green beans.