We love our pets. And, increasingly, there’s a lot more of Fido and Fluffy to love.

Unfortunately, that’s not a good thing.

Pet obesity is a growing problem in the U.S. and worldwide.

Exactly how big an issue is it?

Big enough that there’s an association devoted to the problem. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) was founded by a veterinarian in 2005 with a mission to making the lives of dogs, cats all other animals and people healthier and more vital.

As part of that mission, APOP conducts annual studies on the pet obesity problem. Their numbers from 2017 show yet another increase in the percentage of pets that are overweight in the U.S.

The study found that 56% of dogs and 60% of cats are classified as overweight or obese. In total numbers, that’s a staggering 50.2 million dogs and 56.5 million cats.

The Sad Consequences of Our Pets Being Overweight

Many pet owners aren’t particularly concerned about whether their pet is overweight or not. But they should be.

Shorter Life Span

While there may be more of your pet to love when they’re overweight, you’ll have a shorter time to love them. That’s because multiple studies have shown that overweight animals have shorter life spans.

In fact, one study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, found that obese Labrador Retrievers lived almost 2 years less than their slimmer counterparts.

Emotional Consequences

Not only does obesity shorten a pet’s lifespan, but it has a negative emotional impact on them as well. A study published in The Veterinary Journal found that obese dogs had lower vitality, a worse quality of life and increased pain and emotional disturbance.

Is Our Love Plumping Up Our Pets?

So what’s at the root of this problem?

Some of it has to do with pets not getting enough exercise. Some of its because modern day pet foods have too many calories. Some of its genetics.

And, yes, some of its because we overfeed our pets.

Who can blame us? Its hard not to fall for it when they look so cute begging for food.

I mean, it takes a lot of restraint to resist those precious puppy dog eyes wanting just one more treat as the dogs in this video show off so well?

And this video shows that our feline friends can be just as persuasive?

With antics like that, it sure is hard to deny our furry children food. But for their health and well-being, we need to harden our resolve and learn to say no sometimes.

The Danger of Equating Food With Love

When it comes to humans losing weight, sticking to a diet and exercise plan is more important than the specific diet and exercise plan we use. However, that’s not true with pets.

Yes, a diet and exercise plan can help. But it only addresses part of the issue. Because we’re now understanding that pet obesity is more about the bond humans have with their pets.

More and more we treat our pets as we would our children. And as our love for them has grown, so has our desire to spoil them. And since we often express this love through food, our pets have grown plumper which is causing their health and life span to decrease.

Many of us are quite literally loving our pets to death.

Why Social Workers May Be the Key to Improving Your Pet’s Health

This human-pet bond has such an impact on our pet’s health that many veterinary schools and hospitals have hired social workers to help vets understand the issues at play here. And these social workers can help vets come up with care plans that can maintain or enhance an owner’s bond with their pet while making sure that bond doesn’t have a negative impact on the pet’s health.

If there’s just one takeaway here, it’s this.

There are plenty of ways to express your love for your pet that don’t involve giving them more food.

So shower Fido and/or Fluffy with as much love as you want, just leave the treats in the pantry or on the table. That will help ensure you’ll have many more years to come of showing them with love.

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