Pet obesity’s a big deal in veterinary circles. In fact, it’s the number one most preventable medical condition in our practice, which is why vets like me are always looking for ways to help identify obesity before it happens. And now a new study shows me that maybe we have an edge … even if just a little one.
Because there’s some interesting new demographic data showing that pet owners who experience the game-changing entry of a new babe in the household are more likely to neglect the pets’ need for caloric restrictions and exercise.
According to Flexcin International, makers of a joint supplement for pets:
Pet obesity may be growing at the most alarming rate in households where a new baby is present. Customer adviser specialists at the company say new parents represent the fastest-growing demographic inquiring about dog-joint health issues relating to pet obesity.
Flexcin analyzed demographic data from its team of customer adviser specialists to determine the largest percentage of pet obesity-related inquiries. In a six-month analysis from June through December in 2010, new parents represented roughly a third (32.3 percent) of all dog-joint health inquiries tied to overweight pets (up from 25.7% in 2008). Elderly pet owners came in second at 28.5 percent.
Other data findings:
• 78.4% of new parents said their dog was able to freely eat food that dropped from the baby’s high-chair.
• 67.7% said they paid less attention to their dog’s food portions.
• 64.6% said they had less time for dog walks or didn’t feel comfortable bringing the dog during baby stroller walks.
Well … not so much. Anyone who’s had a baby should recognize themselves in these statistics. After all, the calculus behind having a baby isn’t just limited to the biology of it all. The life-altering agony extends well into the realm of human psychology, too. Consider:
a) Sleepless nights, plus
b) Stressful days, plus
c) Crazy new schedule, plus
d) Demanding dogs and cats, but
e) Much less time to handle them…
…equals fat pets.
Yes, because filling up a needy pet’s bowl three times a day is much easier than not feeding them when they beg. It’s a whole lot easier than taking them to the park or for a brisk jog around the neighborhood. And you can forget about laser play. I mean, who’s got time for mundane, sofa-based antics when there’s a newborn freaking out at you?
Which is why this demographics’ pets tend to get fat; disproportionately so.
So what’s a veterinarian to do? Well, for starters, s/he should ID the demographically-inclined-to-overfeed-and-under-exercise. Next, s/he should preempt the unwelcome-if -understandable human behavior with a speech predicting the rise and fall of the dietary and exercise regimen. Then, s/he should offer concrete suggestions to forestall (or perhaps even prevent) the [pet] weight gain associated with parenthood.
Yes, it’s totally doable. I should know, I’ve been there. But it’s not easy. After all, babies are so shockingly and insidiously demanding that no parent should be held accountable for anything but extreme neglect of pets within the first few months after baby comes home. Newbie parents deserve at least a six-month window to get their s--- together following a new human’s foray into the household.
Still, that doesn’t mean a pet has to suffer weight gain. In fact, given the onerous task of post partum weight loss, it stands to reason that at least new mothers would be receptive to the concept that their pets’ feeding and exercise habits deserve attention, too.
But how exactly to raise the issue delicately. Hmmm…
Dr. Patty Khuly