As 190 million Americans have pets, the obesity among them is one major issue bothering many of them, whether they are their pet dogs or cats at homes. Giving dogs and cats a place in human homes, beds and–sometimes even, their wills–comes with the utmost care taken by the family along with other family members.
In fact, some studies show that a lean body condition score of BCS 4 or 5 adds an average of 1.8 years to dogs’ lives and to maintain that condition, owners should read read pet food labels and understand the feeding directions, suggest experts.
Researchers have found that shared human-pet comforts is the unique luxury to overeat and it is turning into an epidemic both in humans and their pets. The obesity epidemic among pets include diabetes, hyperlipidemia and cancer.
At an ADSA-ASAS Joint Annual Meeting, five animal nutrition experts have examined the implications of over- or inaccurately feeding habits of cats and dogs under aprogram titled: “Companion Animal Symposium: Bioenergetics of Pet Food” and found that the owner is always the culprit who overfeed their pets.
Dr. Kelly Swanson, Professor of Animal and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Illinois, says the first step is to realize that the pet is overweight, which many owners intentionally overllok. “Owners need to actually recognize that their pet is obese, and is not just a funny, pudgy animal that looks cute,” said Swanson. “Lean, healthy pets not only live longer, but more importantly, have a better quality of life.”
Food types and feeding frequencies also need to vary from animal to animal, says Dr. Dennis Jewell, Research Scientist at Hill’s Pet Nutrition, who stresses the customization of feeding programs to fit each pet.
“Each pet has unique genetics that determine, for example, if they’re going to use more calories to maintain their body weight than other animals,” said Jewell. Based on age, size, and other factors, feeding regimens come down to certain pets, he added.
Another overlooked feeding strategy, according to Dr. Katherine Kerr, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Florida, is raw and whole-prey diets, which may provide a viable alternative to extruded ones.
Focusing on the eating patterns and nutritional health of African wildcats, she says, “While observing feeding behaviors, we soon recognized that felines aren’t physiologically made to chew,” said Kerr. “When feeding whole prey, they basically just crush the skull and swallow it whole.”
The diets of wild-type cats include the hide, hair and bones of prey, which have a positive impact on energy metabolism and gut microbial populations. Kerr says that these diets add nutritional therapy options, help in health maintenance, and disease, allergy and obesity mitigation.”We need to explore these diets more to find out the answer,” she adds.