By Rob Holston
March 28, 2007
The section of the Science Diet book that caught my attention was "Obesity Facts". I thought, 'Here's a health concern Americans share with their pets.' The book stated that 50% of dogs & cats are overweight or obese. I thought, 'A recent study shows that in just 4 years, overweight & obese American children will increase from the present level of 25% to 50%.' It is scary for me to see this feeder system generation face such obesity risks, not just for them as children, but also for the adults, which they will become. If the present epidemic levels of diabetes, heart disease and stroke are alarming now, the next generation will be far more disposed to premature death and disability than the present generation of adults. That is VERY alarming!
The Science Diet Book next stated that obese pets are more likely to suffer joint problems from the stress that excess weight puts on the bones and joints. In long term, it stated, obesity means reduced quality of life & perhaps a shorter life for your pet. I think most overweight and obese humans can relate to these issues. An extra 50 pounds puts a lot of undue stress on the spine, the hips, the knees and feet. How much stress? I did a little experiment one day by taking my backpack to the beach and finding a rock to carry home. It was nearly 50 pounds. I walk this same return route several times a week with my dog and suffer no aches or pains and no need to stop along the way, about _ mile, all up hill. With the extra weight, every joint cried for relief and I stopped several times just to catch my breath. I lived with those extra 50 pounds for only 15 minutes but I have empathy for those who live with it 24/7.
The book then addressed prevention: Puppies that are overweight are more likely to be overweight as adults. Controlling body weight during growth helps prevent obesity in adulthood. There are many human studies that show the same is true for us too. One study recently pointed out also that the conception and pregnancy overweight of the mother would have a direct correlation to and be a predictor of the eventual obesity problems of her child.
The book next stated that 'during the growth phase, feed your pet the appropriate growth food for its breed and DO NOT OVERFEED! (emphasis mine). If we humans are to learn anything from correlating this advise from raising our pets to how we raise our kids it would focus on what is appropriate and what is not, how much and how often to eat. Personally I would like to see the Supper Size Me guy do 30 days on Science Diet to see what his body fat % is then! For those of you who have not seen it, a man documented on film, his eating nothing but McDonalds for 30 days straight. He increased his body fat % by 50% during that time and suffered alarming health problems!
Next the book said 'weigh your pet regularly and record it's weight using the Hills Growth Chart available through your veterinarian.' If we would seek similar wisdom from our pediatrician, and perhaps if school districts would measure & record height, weight, girths & BMI, parents would successfully confront the obesity epidemic among children that we now face.
Science Diet next discussed ensuring your pet receives correct levels of exercise throughout life. It is interesting that even a "dog food company" will recognize that the best diet in the world is not enough if the lifestyle does not also include "correct levels of exercise." When I was a kid, exercise was not a huge issue for my two brothers and me. Walking to and from elementary school was a mile and a half. We played work-up at school from 1st grade through 8th grade. At home we played 500 in the front field. That baseball game has plenty of action when there are just three of you. I remember we got 100 for catching a fly ball, 75 for a one bouncer, 50 for two bounces and 25 for grounders. First one to 500 got to bat. Our outside play was usually interrupted by mom hollering, "Dinner." We had a basketball court with a light in the back yard. Night after night we would play until mom hollered, "Bedtime." Yes, we had a TV, but with two channels and poor reception it was rarely seductive enough to lure us away from activities involving fun exercise.
Next the book talked about appropriate food to help maintain healthy weight and body condition once your pet's growth is complete. One problem with human obesity is that some individuals don't recognize when their growth period is complete. Continuing to eat as much in later adult years as you ate in younger formative years leads to increase girths and obesity.
This Science Diet book even had before and after pictures! A cat named Harley was 18.4 pounds before and 13.4 pounds after proper diet & exercise. As I looked at these numbers I moved the decimal point and envisioned a typical American woman 184 pounds before and 134 pounds after. Good for her! The book next showed Alex, a dog weighing in at 113.2 pounds before and 87.2 pounds after. I doubled Alex's weights and imagined a typical American man weighing 226 pounds before and 174 pounds after. Bravo! What did both of these examples remind me of? That 50-pound rock I had carried up from the beach!
The final word of advice that Science Diet gave us to help our pets, can serve all parents and grandparents as we help the children in our families and ourselves as well. I quote from the book: "Controlled feeding, particularly during the growth phase, is highly recommended to help avoid obesity."
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Contact Rob at holston[at]kpunet.net
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