New Year's Resolutions: Obesity in Pets is a Serious Medical Problem
By Hillary Frank, DVM, Dipl. ABVP(avian)
The New Year has arrived and we are all looking forward to the coming year and keeping our resolutions. While some pets are obviously pudgy, many people are surprised to learn from the veterinarian that their pet is overweight. The consequences are much like those we deal with ourselves: joint disease, breathing difficulties, diabetes, and a shortened life-span.
Experts estimate that at least 50% of dogs and cats in America are overweight or obese. A full evaluation by your veterinarian is most important, both to assess their body condition score and determine if an underlying medical condition is present (such as a low functioning thyroid gland). However, most overweight pets simply eat too much and do not exercise enough.
Fat pets are more at risk in surgery, more prone to injury, and have more stress on heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and joints. Excess weight can worsen osteoarthritis, cause respiratory problems in hot weather and during exercise, and lead to diabetes mellitus or high blood pressure. Obesity generally decreases the quality and length of life for a family pet.
The easiest way to tell whether your pet is overweight is by feeling for his ribs. Place your hands on each side of his rib cage and press gently. If you feel his ribs with this gentle pressure, he probably weighs the right amount. If you have to push harder to feel the ribs, he's overweight. Looking at your pet from above, a waistline or indentation should be present in the area between where the ribs end and the hips begin. The chart below this article gives a good visual idea of how your healthy pet should look.
A gradual change to a food with more fiber or lower calories is often enough to control body weight. Discuss the best choice of food with your veterinarian who knows your pet and the medical history. Your veterinarian can assess your pet's ideal body weight and can then calculate the calories needed for weight loss and weight maintenance. Dividing the daily food allowance into three to six servings may keep your pet from realizing he's not eating as much. A portion of his regular food allowance can be saved and used for treats, or use a high fiber low fat snack such as carrots or air-popped popcorn.
A lower calorie balanced diet is just part of the solution for a pet that is overweight. Exercise is just as important. You must consider the age, breed, and general fitness level of your pet before starting. It is also important to take the weather into account. Walking, jogging, Frisbee, & fetch are great ways to exercise your dog. A kitty condo, catnip, and interactive cat toys can get your cat more active as well.
The first prescription drug for the treatment of canine obesity is now available for those dogs that need more than a diet and exercise program to reduce their weight. This medication suppresses canine appetite and blocks fat absorption. It is only prescribed as a part of an overall weight management program for dogs.
Remember that most overweight pets have a slow metabolism. They simply don't burn off those calories very fast and in fact don't generally have "eager eater" appetites. Because of this slow metabolism, though, they don't require very much; so "just a little extra" will make a big difference over a period of time.
To help keep your pet looking and feeling good, this is a New Year's Resolution worth keeping! On Jan. 1, we'll all resolve to lose weight, save money — or, if you're a cat, maybe indulge in less catnip. If your pet could speak, what would his resolution be?
Hillary Frank, D.V.M., DABVP(avian) is the owner of North Central Animal Hospital, P.C., 20 W. Dunlap Ave. She can be reached at 602-395-9773. This information is provided as general information only. For specific advice on your pet's health, consult your veterinarian.
When a cup is not a cup…
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When a cup is not a cup…
Click Here for more weight loss tools.
Click Here for the most popular New Year's Resolutions.