We live in a society where eating healthily and staying fit are championed across all forms of social media. We spend hours working out, and crafting intricate diets which—while sometimes unpleasant—help us to shed the pounds faster.
It’s shocking then that the same level of thought isn’t always given to our furry friends. If you catch a glimpse of a chubby animal, chances are you’re more likely to find them adorable than worry about their physical condition. It’s hard to imagine having the same reaction to an overweight human, so why do we readily accept pet obesity?
This laissez-faire approach to animal welfare is beginning to have a huge impact on pet obesity rates. As Direct Line recently discovered, a staggering 2.7 million cats and dogs across the UK are overweight. They went as far as to highlight that one in eight dogs fall into that category.
While it might not feel like it to some owners, allowing your pet to get into this shape is actually a form of abuse. As we are about to discover, the physical and mental impacts of pet obesity can be unpleasant.
Pet Obesity and Physical Health
Just as with humans, being overweight can directly lead to a series of health complications. These, if unaddressed, will massively reduce the life expectancy of your beloved pet.
The RSPCA highlights some of the most common conditions which are triggered as a result of pet obesity. They include:
- Heart disease
- Respiratory issues
- High blood pressure
You’ll probably notice these conditions almost identically mirror those of humans who are obese. We sometimes forget, but our pets are another species of mammal. That means they have very similar dietary requirements and exercise needs as we do, all relative to their size.
As such, allowing your pet to grow too large is neglect in the same way a person might neglect their own good health. And while your health, or lack thereof, is at your own discretion, all owners should have a duty of care to the animals they often call family.
Pet Obesity and Mental Health
While we’ll never really know what our pets are thinking, it’s fairly safe to assume that being overweight has a direct impact on their happiness.
That doesn’t mean they’re never happy, of course. But being a size which makes it a struggle to freely move around will undoubtedly have a knock-on effect for their mental health.
There are a number of ways being overweight can make a pet unhappy:
- Inability to exercise. All pets, especially dogs, have a desire (and a need) to regularly exercise. If they find themselves overweight, they may struggle to get the right amount of exercise to keep them happy. Most dogs will become anxious if they don’t get to walk, while some will even lash out violently.
- General discomfort. Anyone who’s ever been overweight will attest to the level of discomfort that comes as a result of being large. Something as simple as moving between places, or jumping up onto a surface, could become a struggle for a cat or dog.
- Side-effects of health conditions. Likewise, worsened general health could lead to an animal feeling in constant, or regular, pain. This is guaranteed to have a direct impact on how happy they are.
While a pet doesn’t feel bad about their size in the same way a human would (thankfully they’re yet to invent an Instagram for dogs), that doesn’t mean they won’t struggle—both physically and metally.
The Power is in Your Hands
Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of the owner to ensure pets don’t fall victim to neglect. While it might feel like an expression of affection, giving your dog regular treats is harmful; those calories can quickly begin to add up.
PDSA showcases some of the ways in which you can ensure your pet doesn’t become overweight. They suggest:
- Changing their diet
- Ensuring they get enough exercise
- Cutting down on the number of treats we give them
They go on to highlight that feeding a cat a whole can of tuna equates to a human eating 35 chicken nuggets. While two plain biscuits for a dog would be the same as a human eating two large chocolate cupcakes.
Ultimately, nobody has more control over the health of our pets than we do. If you notice your loved one becoming slightly rounder, be sure to look at what you’re feeding them, as well as how much exercise they’re getting.