Statistically, two-thirds of Americans are overweight and one-third are obese.  Our pets are catching on to the trend as well.  According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, half of American pets are now overweight or obese.  This has led to dramatic increases in diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis among our feline and canine companions.

It seems that if dogs are truly man’s best friend, we’re not treating Fido very well in return for his undying loyalty.  The owner is in direct control over the pet’s food intake, and some pets are getting to the point where they have to be put to sleep out of mercy.  Mercy because the pet is no longer able to move.  Their immense weight has disabled their body from functioning anymore.

It’s interesting to me to look at the causal factors here.  Animals deal with the same biochemistry that we do.  They deal with the fact that if they don’t have much activity, but they eat as if they ran all day then they gain weight.  It’s not very surprising that when they’re stuck inside and given heaping portions of food they gain an unhealthy amount of weight.

So what does that say for us?  The ones who are feeding these pets.  I think it largely reflects a lack of thought about food and activity for both our pets and ourselves.  From what I can tell, dogs and cats don’t think all that much about the food in front of them.  They just eat it.  And typically they’ll overeat just because their species hasn’t been in a situation where intentional caloric restriction was paramount for survival.  Sounds a lot like those Homo sapiens to me.

We, as humans, have come to a point where we can confidently say with statistics that we’re usually too fat.  How does that happen?  There’s no physical component to the hunt anymore.  We don’t have to grow our own food or hunt our own prey to eat.  We just walk to the fridge.  Not only is the food abnormally accessible, we also don’t have to exert much energy for that food.  We just drive to the local grocery store and walk for thirty minutes.  That’s a little different than planting the seed, tending it for months, harvesting it, and preparing it.  It’s also a little different than tracking a deer for hours and finally getting a good shot at it.  That type of food gathering takes a lot of exercise.  Our food gathering doesn’t take much at all.

The opposite end of the spectrum of being overly thin can be problematic as well, and I’m not advocating that we all pursue 500 calorie diets.  What I am advocating is that we give our food and activity their due thought.  It’s essential for not only your own health, but also the health of all those whom your habits influence (friends, family… and apparently your pets).

For further reading, check out this NY Times Article “The Costs of Having a Fat Dog or Cat”.