My family and I had the pleasure of eating out today, but I admit I overdid it. I. Am. So. Full.
For what I fear was a few months, our fish were full too. Even though we were specifically told not to overfeed them, it was difficult to stop at so few flakes—especially when some fish would dominate feeding time, and others didn’t seem to get nearly enough. It took less-than-clear water to finally clue me in that too much food and waste was upsetting our aquatic ecosystem.
Fish are healthier when they’re underfed, and they’re not alone. Just as obesity is a dangerous epidemic for people in the U.S., the Wall Street Journal reported in February 2011 that it’s a dangerous epidemic for pets, as well: more than half of American cats and dogs are obese.
What may seem like opportunities to “treat” our animal friends actually contribute to diabetes, arthritis, kidney failure, high blood pressure, cancer and a shorter life span: a scary reality for any pet owner.
I know I didn’t intend to cause my fish any harm. On the contrary, I was trying my best to meet their needs. And if I had to guess, I’d say other pet owners feel the same way. Treats like table scraps can be expressions of affection for a furry member of the family. Food dishes are mindlessly overfilled the same way we overfill our own plates. When we celebrate, we eat! Why should our pets be left out?
Not all of our personal habits are healthy ones. As a nation, we do tend to eat too much and move too little. We know we should change, but change can be hard. Ideally, I’d love to see all of us improve the quality of life for our households. If we can’t make it all-inclusive, don’t we owe it to our pets to do everything we can to provide them happy, healthy lives?
With all of this in mind, I ask you to look closely at your pet: Would your veterinarian say he or she is close to optimal weight? Do you provide your pet an appropriate, balanced diet? Does your pet have the opportunity to exercise enough? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, please check with your vet.
As much as we love our scaled, feathered and furry friends, overfeeding them is not what will make them happy in the long run. Instead, try showing your affection through attention, play and caring enough to keep illness at bay.