A rant about America’s fat pets

Obese canine from New Orleans
An obese dog in New Orleans. Source: Flickr, user mrtgt

This is my brief rant for the day. I just need to get it out of my system: I am disgusted by the number of FAT dogs and cats that I see on a daily basis.

Obesity is a well-known problem in America, but it’s spread beyond humans and now also afflicts our defenseless pets. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that 54 percent of American dogs and cats are overweight or obese. More than half. That’s disgusting. And wrong.

Many of the dogs that we receive at the SPCA are strays, but many are abandoned by their families. The interesting thing is that dogs who scavenged on the streets are often in better health than those who lived in cozy homes, because those surrendered dogs were grossly fattened up by their owners. The overweight dogs have many more severe health concerns than the homeless dogs who lived in alleyways. A few weeks ago, I was walking a fairly young border collie mix at the shelter who was extremely overweight. He was only five years old, but he could barely WALK because he was so fat. The dog was shaped like a blimp. It made me so angry. I wished I could have talked to his former owners face-to-face to give them a piece of my mind…

Obese Dog
An obese blue heeler mix. Source: Flickr, user mediamisfit

The other thing that makes me angry is when I am walking Bo, my friend Liz’s beautiful and healthy young golden retriever. Bo is a trim, healthy two-year-old and yet, when I walk him, people often stop me and say, “You need to feed your dog! He’s SO skinny!” This is offensive in a number of ways, but I manage to force myself to politely respond, “He’s actually a very healthy weight. But thanks anyway.” They look skeptical and keep walking. These people are so accustomed to seeing fat dogs that when they see a healthy one, they think he’s underweight! It’s unbelievable. And sad.

I believe that overfeeding our pets is morally wrong. This is why. Adult humans have the free will to eat whatever they want. You want to live exclusively on fast food, soft drinks, and Doritos? Go right ahead; it’s your right as a full-grown, (supposedly!) rational adult.

However, when our terrible eating habits are extended to our children and our pets, our “freedom” becomes a dangerous and life-threatening practice. We are actually endangering the lives of those who depend on us. Children and dogs do not have the ability to choose what they eat; we do. Therefore, we should be mindful of what we are feeding them. Your obese dog has an increased risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease and you’ve likely knocked at least two years off of her lifespan. This is something to take very seriously. And yet I think an embarrassingly small number of people do. I guess it’s proof enough if you look around that most people do not take good care of their bodies. Why would they be inclined to take good care of their pets’ bodies, too?

Every dog’s needs are different, but the APOP website provides a list of healthy weight ranges for many dog breeds that could be a helpful resource. I wish this information was more widely disseminated to current and potential dog owners. One can keep hoping…

What are some ways that you keep your dog healthy? Have you ever had to put your dog on a diet? How did you do it?