Over 1.9 billion human adults are overweight. Of these, more than 650 million are obese – that’s roughly 13% of the planet's adult human population. The worldwide prevalence of obesity has almost tripled since 1975. And it's not just us who are suffering from this problem.
According to RSPCA, the largest animal welfare charity in the UK, obesity is a serious issue in pets as well and it can take a huge toll on their health if we allow it. But if we help our critters to maintain a healthy diet and make sure they receive plenty of exercise, our critters can bounce back!
And probably no other place celebrates these journeys more than r/dechonkers. The subreddit collects impressive before-and-after photos of animals who successfully got rid of their excess weight. Take a look!
From Absolute Unit On The Brink Of Being Put Down Due To Health Issues, To A Smiling Boy
To learn more about why pets put on unwanted pounds and how to make them go away, we contacted PDSA Vet Lynne James. "One mistake that is easy to make when faced with adorable kitten or puppy eyes is indulging our pets with treats," James told Bored Panda. "Treats can quickly add up, yet they should only make up 10% of your pet's daily food allowance."
"Work out how much your pet should be eating each day and don't overfeed them; weigh out their daily allowance to prevent accidental over-feeding and take out 10% of their allowance to use as their treats for the day. Choose healthy treats such as a few slices of carrot for dogs or a small piece of white fish or lean meat, which both cats and dogs can enjoy. Most pets would be just as happy with extra attention, an extra walk, or playtime!"
The veterinarian highlighted that what seems like a small snack for us can be a lot more for our pets. "For example, did you know that feeding your dog two digestive biscuits is the same as you eating a whole chocolate cake? Or that feeding your cat a tin of tuna is like you eating 35 chicken nuggets!"
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Dr. Ernie Ward, the founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, agrees. "A typical 'dog bone' or common treat can contain 20-50 calories. For a 20-30 pound dog, that single reward is often more than 10% of their total daily caloric allowance," Dr. Ward told Bored Panda. "The sad truth is most dogs receive two to five treats each day, adding up excess calories quickly."
He noted that people who don't weigh or measure their pet's food can also cause some harm. "Adding an extra 10-calories a day, about 10 pieces of typical pet food kibble, can add a pound to the average cat or small dog over a year."
The worldwide prevalence of pet obesity hover between 22% and 44%, and rates seem to be rising. In the UK, where the PDSA has been operating since 1917, the situation is getting worse too.
Dr. Ward has been diagnosing a lot of pets with obesity over the last 25 years. "Part of the reason is due to the fact that I’m a veterinarian whose area of interest is obesity; the other part is that pet obesity is becoming more prevalent," he said.
"This is an incredibly important issue because pets with obesity are at increased risk for developing serious weight-related disorders such as diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, kidney disease, cancer, and more. Currently, an estimated 60% of cats and 56% of dogs in the US are classified by their vet as overweight or have obesity. That equals over 100 million dogs and cats at risk for avoidable disease, pain, and shortened life expectancy. We must do better."
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Phoebe’s Diet Is Going Well!
"Pet obesity has been a huge problem [here] for many years and sadly there is no sign of improvement, with up to nearly one in every two pets seen by vets and vet nurses overweight or obese," Lynne James said.
"In 2020, 78% of veterinary professionals told us that they had seen an increase in pet obesity over the last two years. Our 2021 PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report found 9% of dog owners, 5% of cat owners and 9% of rabbit owners told us their pet had gained weight during the pandemic, while 9% of dog owners, 5% of cat owners and 4% of rabbit owners told us that they had fed more human treats during the pandemic."
"Your pet's diet has a huge impact on their health and happiness. The wrong diet can lead to obesity and life-long health issues, so it’s important to feed them the right food to keep them a healthy weight and make sure they’re getting all the nutrients they need," PDSA’s Lynne James added.
“We recommend feeding high-quality, complete food from pet shops, vets or PDSA’s Pet Store. Complete diets for your pet’s life stage contain all the nutrients your pet needs, in the correct amounts."
“We recommend giving your pet the best quality food that you can afford, if you’re not sure which brands are well established and high-quality, speak to your veterinary practice. The foods that are recommended by your vet or vet nurse will be those which have been produced as a result of dedicated scientific research into the nutritional needs of your pet.
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To help your pet achieve a healthy body composition, Dr. Ward suggests these tips:
- "The first step is, you guessed it, to weigh your [pet] regularly. The body stores excess energy as fat tissue, so it’s a safe bet that an otherwise healthy dog or cat who gained four pounds probably gained most of that as fat. If you can safely pick up and weigh your pet, you can get a good idea of how their weight is trending monthly. Spotting weight trends early is essential in avoiding excessive weight gain. In addition, if you regularly weigh them, you’re more likely to spot inexplicable weight loss early, a common finding in pets with cancer."
- "Next, you can consult the breed weight charts on the petobesityprevention.org website and other breed standards. Mixed breeds can be tricky, so get your vet team involved to help."
- "Your vet will use a body condition score (BCS) and perhaps a muscle condition score (MCS) to better gauge if your pet is at a healthy body composition. This is basically a subjective assessment of body fat percentage, and is a helpful tool for tracking progress over time."
- "At home, you can also perform a modified BCS by consulting the charts and performing a few simple tests. First, you should be able to easily feel – and count – your pet's ribs when you lightly run your fingers across the side. If you can’t easily feel those smooth bones, that’s a sign your doggo is probably carrying extra weight."
- "Next, when you look down on your pet from above, you should see an “hourglass figure” or an indentation near the midsection. If your pet looks like a blimp from above, it’s probably overweight or has obesity."
- "Finally, when you observe your pet from the side as it stands, you should see a slight tuck or upward slope of the tummy. If the abdomen hangs low and drags near the ground, that indicates the most dangerous and biologically active form of fat, abdominal fat, is present. Time to get professional help."
Buddy’s Epic Weight Loss! He Was Around 20kg, And Now He’s At 13kg
From 95 Grams To 80 Grams. Alexander Has Reached His Goal Chonk!
I Got Darling Belle About Two Months Ago (On The Left) And Immediately Put Her On A Diet. Show Her Some Love As She Continues Her Dechonkin’ Journey!
From Thicc To Stick: Massive Tuxie Loses 3 Kg/Half A Stone. More Pounds Have Rolled Since The Picture Was Taken (April 2019)
PDSA’s #WeighUp guide is an invaluable tool that empowers owners to identify the signs of weight gain in their pets and take practical steps to address them.
"The good news is that even if your pooch or kitty is in need of a health kick, it’s never too late to help them eat well, exercise and play more, and live longer," Lynne reassured. "In most cases, simply adapting their diet, replacing treats with playtime, and encouraging them to move more can make a huge difference, and are all the ingredients needed for our pets to maintain a healthy weight, essential for a happy, healthy life."
Find out more about PDSA’s #WeighUp campaign, and download its free guide to help check if your pet is at a healthy weight and what to do if not.