I often counsel pet owners on an appropriate body weight for their pets and then devise a plan to achieve that ideal body weight. Pet obesity was one of the driving forces that led me to make the jump to veterinary medicine. People often equate food and treats with love. I mean, who can resist those eyes, that look??
Although it can be difficult to resist, the cost is high in terms of health. In a landmark study by Purina performed over 14 years looking at the lifetime effect of free-fed versus lean-fed Labrador retrievers, it was found that lean-fed dogs lived 15% longer than free-fed dogs. That’s 1.8 years longer that you can love your dog!!
The researchers found that the lean-fed dogs not only had a lower body fat content, but also had a delay in loss of lean body mass (read: muscle!) by two years. Visible signs of aging such as reduced activity and lameness as well as greying muzzles were also delayed. The age when 50% of the dogs required treatment for a chronic condition was 12 years for the lean-fed dogs, compared to 9.9 years for the free-fed dogs. Blood levels of triglycerides, triiodothyronine, insulin, and glucose were lower in the lean-fed dogs as well.
Diabetes and osteoarthritis are two diseases that your overweight pet is predisposed to. The good news is that weight loss can actually improve both of these conditions!
So the next time you reach for the treats or extra food and can’t resist those eyes… Consider the long term costs… and reach for a hug or even better, grab the leash and go for a walk!