Obesity is seen as a major health issue in humans. Why, then, is it ignored when it comes to our little critters? Fat, fluffy rabbits and rotund, waddling dogs may seem adorable, but they suffer from a disease that affects their health in a major way, just as it does in humans.Yet, this continues to be a problem ignored by over-indulgent owners, who mistakenly assume Simba’s portly appearance to be a sign of being well-fed and nourished.
The gravity of the situation becomes apparent when we consider the harmful side- effects that this excess weight brings with it. Keep in mind, while 4-5 kilos might not make a lot of difference in human beings, the same amount of weight in a dog, for example, equals a much greater percentage of total body weight, and it’s effects are also in the same proportion. Apart from making them sluggish and inactive, studies have shown that being overweight can shorten the lifespan of animals and lead to several health problems such as kidney disease, heart disease, high blood pressure,respiratory disease and a compromised immune system. And yet, even while the animals are treated for all these diseases, the fact that excess weight could be the underlying issue behind them is rarely acknowledged.
The problem stems mainly from the diets these animals are fed. Store-bought pet food comes with portion suggestions for a reason, yet most owners tend to ignore these, operating under the fear that their pet might go hungry if not fed till it is done eating. The fact is, animals tend to instinctively gorge on food till their stomachs are full, whether they need it or not, and if you’re giving your pet regular, nutritionally balanced meals, it certainly does not. Also, a lot of people tend to feed their pets the same kind of food that they themselves eat. The general defense offered here is that that’s how it’s always been and commercially-made pet food has only been introduced in the past century, or so. The fatal flaw in this argument lies in the fact that our diets are also vastly different from what they were a century ago, and now consist of a lot of processed food and fat-rich content. so unless you’re very careful about what you put in your own body, and let’s face it, so few of us are, it’s a terrible idea to feed your pets the same food as you consume yourself.
Treats are also another issue. Most of us who own pets will admit that the critters have us pretty much wrapped around their little fingers, or paws, as it may be. All it takes is the smallest sign of good behaviour, or even just a pleading look from them to convince us to reward them with their favourite goodies. Training your pets is important, but these treats are named as such for a reason and are not meant to be a part of their regular diets. Good behaviour can be rewarded in other ways also, such as play time. Scooby doesn’t need a Scooby Snack every time he lets you pose him for Instagram.
Commercially available treats are highly processed and tend to have a large number of preservatives, so homemade treats are also a good option. The best part is, you can control what goes in there and these can be tailored specifically to your pet’s tastes and preferences, thus making them all the more effective.
The biggest problem, probably, is that we are increasingly imposing our sedentary lifestyles on our pets. Remember all those studies that showed that playing and exercising everyday with your dog would help you lose weight? Well, the opposite seems to have happened and your laziness has now extended to taking the dog out for walks too. All animals need a minimum amount of exercise everyday, depending on the kind of animal and its age and current health status. Dogs need to be taken out for walks or runs, some breeds like collies, huskies or dalmatians, being naturally active species, need it more than the others, or otherwise risk becoming bored or even worse, aggressive. Playtime is essential to your dog’s happiness. Although cats have a higher metabolism, they too, need play time everyday. This is not only a good way of bonding with your cat, it helps engage them in exercise to keep off the flab too.
As for other animals, it is a common misconception that smaller animals, especially rodents don’t need exercise. Wheels should be installed in cages where they can, to keep hamsters and guinea pigs engaged. Chubby bunnies make adorable, but short-lived pets, so for your rabbit’s health’s sake, let it out of it’s cage everyday and let it run around and stretch itself.
Owning a pet is a huge responsibility. When you get a pet, you become responsible for it’s mental and physical well being and they depends on you to make correct, informed decisions regarding their health. So put on your shoes and take them out to
play, and every time you decide to throw your pet a nibble, think about what’s in it and what it’s going to do for your their health,
and they’ll love you all the more for it.