In 2014, the American Medical Association (AMA) officially recognized obesity as a human disease because it met the association’s definition of a disease: it impairs normal functioning of some part of the body, it demonstrates characteristic signs or symptoms, and it causes injury, disability or poor health. In 2018, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) endorsed the Global Pet Obesity Initiative’s position statement calling for veterinarians to recognize pet obesity as a disease. A few years later, it appears that the majority of veterinary professionals and pet parents do believe obesity is a disease, based on the results of the latest survey from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP).
Obesity as a Disease
The APOP survey, completed at the end of 2021, reported that 72 percent of pet owners and 87 percent of veterinary professionals considered obesity a disease. It appears that people are recognizing that obesity isn’t just about carrying some extra fat around — obesity negatively affects the health of pets.
In obese dogs, fat can gather around tissue and organs like muscles, the heart and the kidneys and change how the body’s metabolism, hormones and inflammation are controlled. Obesity is also linked to other health issues like diabetes, arthritis, pancreatitis and certain types of cancer. All of these health problems can reduce your dog’s quality of life and increase your veterinary expenses.
Recognizing Obesity Is Important
The APOP survey also revealed that only 39 percent of dog owners considered their dog overweight or having obesity, which differs from other reports that list dog obesity rates at over 50 percent in the U.S. The APOP survey had a small sample size, but it is important for dog owners to understand what an overweight dog looks like. That way they can ask their veterinarian if changes should be made to their dog’s diet and/or lifestyle.
Treats Should Be a Treat
There are many reasons why dogs become obese, but unfortunately the main reason is because of their pet parents. The APOP survey revealed that 27 percent of respondents went on more walks with their dog during the COVID-19 pandemic (which is great), but 23 percent of survey takers handed over more treats. It’s unknown if the same people who walked more were the same people who fed more treats. That’s the best-case scenario because walking would have helped their dog burn off some or all of the extra calories. But feeding more treats without more exercise could contribute to increased weight gain as well as other potential health issues.
Obesity continues to be a concerning issue for many pets. If you think your dog could benefit from slimming down a little (or a lot), contact your veterinarian to see if a weight management diet could help.
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