Diabetes & Your Pets – Obesity

The fact that over a third of the adult population in the United States is obese is startling.  To hear that 45% of our dogs and 58% of our cats are overweight is nothing less than disturbing.

This picture of Sassy has been circulating around the internet for years, but this isn't funny! Overweight pets are a serious problem.

Our pets don’t look in mirrors, count calories, or step on scales, so pet parents are the only ones to blame for these ridiculous statistics.  The more I read about diabetes in our dogs and cats, the more I realized it was obesity rather than genetics that was to blame.  Some of the facts and statistics literally made me sick.

Every pound your cat is overweight is the equivalent of 13 pounds of extra weight on an adult woman (15 pounds on an adult man.)  Are you still not shocked?!  How about this analogy – if you have a lab that weighs 90 pounds…that is like being a 5’4” woman weighing 186 pounds.  Yikes!

Part of the problem is that most people with overweight pets consider them to be a normal weight.  It’s hard to make people address a problem that they don’t see as a problem!  Also, some people think that the extra poundage their poor puppy or kitty is carrying around is “cute”.  While they think the extra fat means more of their pet to love – they are actually taking years off their furbaby’s life.  (Up to 2 YEARS off!)  They are also taking dollars out of their wallet – American pet owners spend about $25 million a year to treat obesity related conditions.

The most ridiculous statistic?  Pet obesity is 100% preventable.  Just as in overweight humans, overweight dogs and cats are eating too much and not exercising enough.  This seems super obvious, right?  Yes and no.

Everyone knows that dogs need to go for walks (although just because people know this doesn’t necessarily mean that they walk their dogs every day.)  Did you know that cats need exercise too?  (Don’t worry…you don’t have to walk them!)  Most people assume cats are fine sleeping the day away, but just getting your cat to be active for 10-15 minutes a day can make a HUGE difference in their weight (and their happiness!)

Food and treats are two not-so-obvious causes of obesity in our pets.  There is no law requiring pet food companies to provide calorie information for their products (unless they are specifically marketing their food as “low calorie.”)  Also, a majority of people are simply feeding their dogs and cats too much.  Following the recommended portions on the bag isn’t always an accurate guideline – these are based on young, active pets that have not been spayed or neutered.  If your pet is older or isn’t being regularly exercised, but you are still following the printed serving sizes, you could be giving your four-legged friend 25% too much food.  Some of us (myself included!) cannot resist giving our little guy or gal a treat….sometimes for just being adorable! Giving your dog a small bone treat is the same as you eating two chocolate doughnuts.  A pig ear treat for your pup is the same as you drinking a six-pack of Coke.  Yuck!  Many treats today are simply loaded with sugar and fat (which is why our pets love them so!)  Am I saying you shouldn’t give your pup a treat for good behavior or for giving you those “puppy dog eyes”?  Of course not!!!  Just as in our own diets – they key word is moderation.

Our pets rely on us for everything.  They bring so much joy to our lives – the least we can do for them is keep them healthy.  Diabetes in dogs and cats is on the rise, and the main cause of this horrible disease is obesity.  They don’t know about cardio or portioning out their meals.  They are animals for Pete’s sake!  It is in their nature to eat whatever they can get their paws on.  It is up to us to make sure they aren’t getting their paws on too much!  This is going to sound harsh, but if you don’t have half an hour every day to devote to exercising your pet – you shouldn’t have gotten one in the first place!

Or maybe you should just call a fabulous dog walker….

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Wags & Whiskers Wednesday (#5)

Happy first Wednesday in February!

Enjoy these pics of some ADORABLE pups that I saw today!  I’m keeping this post short and sweet as my new insulin pump is making me feel less than my best.  (Read more about diabetes – in humans and dogs – in the first article of our Diabetes & Your Pet series.)

Diabetes & Your Pets – Introduction

STOP Diabetes - in Humans and Pets!

Three days ago, this diabetic dog lover broke down and finally went on an insulin pump.  I have spent the last few weeks reading up on the disease and the various ways to treat it in humans.  As dogs are never far from my thoughts, it wasn’t too long before the idea of diabetes collided with the idea of pets in my brain.  How is diabetes in pets diagnosed?  What can you do for a pet with diabetes?  How do they even get diabetes in the first place?  These are all questions I asked myself when I was first diagnosed back in my last sugar-filled year (2005)….and they seemed valid questions now that diabetes in our pets is becoming more common place: about 1 in 500 dogs and 1 in 400 cats have the disease.

I was shocked to discover that human diabetes is extremely similar to diabetes found in dogs and cats.  When researching it in dogs, I swear I was reading word for word some of the passages I had just read in my pre-pump training.  The symptoms of the disease in pets are lethargy, excessive water consumption, increased urination, and unexplained weight loss or weight gain.  (The symptoms in humans are fatigue, increased thirst, frequent urination, increased hunger, and weight loss.)  There are two types of diabetes that can be found in people and pets – diabetes insipidus (dealing with kidneys and how they process water) and diabetes mellitus (dealing with insulin deficiency.)  These two diseases are completely different, but for now we are just going to be discussing diabetes mellitus – which is divided into Type 1 and Type 2 for humans, cats, and dogs.

Interestingly, Type 1 is more common than Type 2 in our pets…completely opposite of us humans.  Cats are more likely to develop Type 2 , though….while nearly all dogs have Type 1.  This means that dogs almost always have to be administered insulin shots while cats can often get off with a change of diet and other medications.  (Maybe we should change the expression to “You lucky cat!”)

Human using a glucose monitor

Dog using a glucose monitor (looks similar, doesn't it?)

What I found especially fascinating was the fact that you can use a human glucometer to test the blood sugar of dogs and cats.  Isn’t that crazy?!  You can also the same insulin (literally the exact same insulin that I use myself) on dogs and cats. (Heaven help you if you have to give your kitty insulin shots!)

Bigger dogs are more susceptible to developing diabetes…along with certain breeds (LabsPoodles, Miniature Schnauzer, Dachshunds to name a few) that seem prone to the disease.  Sometimes it is hereditary (just like humans.)

Sadly…obesity seems to play a HUGE part in diabetes developing in dogs and cats.  This has become an epidemic among American people and their pets.  In the next Diabetes & Your Pets post, I am going to post some startling statistics about how overweight our pets are.  Be sure to check back this week!