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Obesity is one of the medical diseases that affect human beings and pets globally. Like in humans, obesity is a frustrating health condition in pets. Its prevalence in dogs is approximately 33 to 60% whereas in cats is between 11.5 and 27% (Pretlow and Corbee 1). Similarly, the rate of obesity occurrence in human children is about 23.2% and 13.2% in developed and developing countries respectively (Pretlow and Corbee 1). Since obesity in pets influences the occurrence of other diseases such as osteochondrosis, laminitis, hepatic lipidosis as well as diabetes mellitus in addition to lowering the lifespan of pets, it is imperative to determine the contributing factors for the problem to guide on the effective solutions.
Poor nutrition influences occurrence of obesity in pets. A novel explanation to this claim stems from the finding that most people give ‘treat’ to pets in the form of extra food to show their affection and love for the pets (Pretlow and Corbee 1). The practice by the ‘pet-parents’ make pets to become addicted to the type of foods they are given, leading to co-dependence on the foods. Like humans, pets have ways of getting extra food or responding when they have not received specific foods. For instance, dogs present withdrawal symptoms like children to demonstrate dissatisfaction with a specific treatment (Pretlow and Corbee 2). Such behaviors by pets influence pet-owners to often buy certain foods for their pets that contribute significantly to the occurrence of obesity.
Likewise, stress contributes to the occurrence of obesity in pets. Studies that were conducted in the 1980s on stress-induced laboratory rats indicated that stress cause weight gain. The results of these studies showed that exposing rats to stress stimuli such as annoying noise made these animals to overeat (Pretlow and Corbee 2). The stress-induced eating in stressed rats is a displacement behavior aimed at managing oneself stress. Thus, the excessive eating in some pets might be as a result of poor quality of life. For instance, cats enclosed in apartments are at a greater risk of obesity when compared with cats that access diverse environments. Therefore, limited space makes pets not only to embrace sedentary lifestyle but also to lead distress-induced eating due to the inadequacy of environmental enrichment to practice natural behaviors (Pretlow and Corbee 1).
Eating addiction also affects the eating behavior of pets, making them susceptible to obesity. In the beginning, pets usually overeat because there is plenty of food within their reach to eat. Consumption of food as fun results in a repeated behavior that is reinforced in the pets’ brains (Pretlow and Corbee 3). When significant change takes place in the pets’ brains, pets find it hard to discontinue comfort eating, resulting in addictive process. Similarly, a combination of factors such as availability of cheap, palatable foods, comfort eating, and lack of movement may facilitate the occurrence of pet obesity epidemic (Pretlow and Corbee 3). The assertion is evidenced by the Western practices that promote the occurrence of obesity in children. Children together with their parents assess fast foods easily and at an affordable price, influencing the overconsumption of foods that increase the risk of obesity. Pet owners also buy cheap and readily available foods that make pets to become obese.
Many findings show that human habit is the main contributing factor for the occurrence of obesity in pets. Based on this fact, it is apparent that the solution to pet obesity problem lies in the hands of the pet-owners. Pet-owners should consider reducing the amount of the dietary energy foods they give their pets. Consumption of moderate amount of these foods will reduce accumulation of weight in animals since a state of equilibrium will be created between the consumed food and energy expenditure (German 3). Dietary energy restriction can be achieved through the use of purpose-formulated diet in addition to minimizing excessive treating (German 4). Similarly, it is recommendable for pet-owners always to evaluate the happiness of their pets. They should promote the happiness of pets by engaging them in physical activities. Equally, they should always provide their pets with sufficient exercise to burn extra calories that influence weight gain (German 4).
In summary, pet obesity is a common health problem that affects many pets in the globe. The occurrence of this health problem is attributed to the behaviors of the pet-owners. Excessive treating of pets with foods contributes significantly to the occurrence of obesity in pets. Stressful life in addition to lack of environmental exposure influences the occurrence of obesity in many pets. The occurrence of pet obesity can be reduced through a change of pet owners’ behaviors. Withdrawal of excessive treatment and minimizing the provision of unhealthy foods to the pets can reduce the occurrence of obesity. Similarly, the problem can be managed by providing pets with sufficient exercises. Also, providing pets with freedom of movement by increasing their area of interaction will significantly reduce the occurrence of obesity in pets.
German, Alexander. Weight management in obese pets: the tailoring concept and how it can improve results. German Acta Vet Scand, 2016, 58(Suppl 1):57. DOI 10.1186/s13028- 016-0238-z
Pretlow, Robert and Corbee Ronald. Similarities between obesity in pets and children: the addiction model. British Journal of Nutrition, 2016. doi:10.1017/S0007114516002774
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