October is Pet Obesity Awareness Month. It's also a great time to think about the paradigms that lead us to allow our pets to become overweight or obese in the first place.
We've all seen those pet food commercials where Fluffy races around the corner and skids to a halt in front of a heaping - and I mean heaping! - bowl of food. If you'll pardon the obvious pun, this is a huge pet peeve for me. Other advertisements feature toy breeds plowing into portions that would gorge a Golden Retriever. With these types of images bombarding pet parents' senses, it's easy to see why over 60% of America's pets are either overweight or obese.
In their zeal to avoid becoming victims of marketing, many consumers take what is usually a wise course of action, and read the instructions on their pet's food bag for portion sizes. However, the suggested portions printed on these bags are usually enough to make my jaw hit the floor. It's important to remember these are only suggestions, and many food companies would rather err on the side of overfeeding than underfeeding. Additionally, pet food companies are for-profit entities. At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, no pet food company is going to print a label asking consumers to please use less of their product. Generally speaking, I advise my clients to read the recommended feeding amounts on the package, then reduce that amount by roughly 20%. Your veterinary team can best advise you on the best diets for your pet, as well as the portion sizes that fit your pet's individual needs.