Friday, August 13, 2010

Obesity in pets.

Hi my peeps! Hope you survived Friday the 13th well. Today I want to talk about obesity in pets, to be exact - in felines and canines.

Obesity is the most common nutritional disorder in pets. 25% of the pet population is obese. A pet that weighs 15% above the optimal body weight is considered obese. The best way to figure out what the optimal body weight for your pet is, is to consult your veterinarian. Below is a chart that shows what a normal weight, over weight, and obese cat and dog looks like.
Obesity, due to several causes, can lead to many illnesses but can also be prevented or eliminated.

Obesity can be caused by many things. Lets talk about what can cause obesity.

Breed: Certain breeds are more prone to be overweight than others. In cats it's mostly the mixed breeds that draw the short stick. In dogs it's often breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Beagles, Bassets, and I hate to say it, Cocker Spaniels.

Life style: In nature, animals hunt for their food. Our pets get their food served to them and really don't have to do much in order to fill their tummies. Many pets have become couch potatoes. Their exercise routine is less than the calorie intake.

Feeding: In nature, animals only eat what they need. Pets often get portions that are bigger than they need. Other times, the food we feed is not appropriate for the age or life style of the pet.

Spaying and neutering: Spaying and neutering is absolutely necessary to keep the pet population under control and is very important but it does result in a decrease of the metabolism and thus, can cause a pet to become overweight.

Diseases: Some diseases such as Hypothyroidism or Cushing's disease can cause a pet to gain a lot of weight. Luckily, they occur in small percentages only and can be controlled by medications.

Medications: There are many medications that can lead to weight gain. For example, Corticosteroids, Anticonvulsants and Appetite Stimulants are just a few of them. Talk to your veterinarian about the side effects of the medications your pet takes.

Obesity can also cause many unwanted diseases. Here is a list of just a few.

  • Arthritis
  • Heart Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Bladder Cancer
  • Fatty Liver (Hepatic Lipidosis)
  • Respiratory Issues

These are all serious health issues that are a result of obesity and can be prevented. There are simple ways that can prevent your pet from gaining unwanted weight. It is always a good idea to ask your veterinarian what his suggestions are to prevent a weight gain. In general, it's best not to feed table scraps to your pet. Multiple small feedings are better than one large feeding. Measuring the food in exact amounts is very helpful. Make sure your pet is not eating too fast. And most of all, add in lots of exercise on a daily basis.

Well, that all sounds great but sometimes the best intentions can fail and your pet still ends up being overweight. All hope is not lost! There are things that can be done to shed those unwanted pounds. Importantly, talk to your veterinarian about the issue. The goal should be a 1% weight loss per week. Don't over-do it and starve your pet. That could lead to other health issues all together. The way to lose weight is through diet and exercise. Let's talk about the diet first.

Diet: We should feed a low calorie diet. Almost every brand sells a Low Calorie food and it is usually marked on the package or can as such. Most foods also have a chart on the package that tells you how much to feed. If you can't figure it out, ask your veterinarian for the correct amount you should feed your pet. Read the package. The food should have a slightly higher amount of protein, a low amount of carbohydrates, and a low to moderate amount of fat. And we all know that all good pets deserve a treat now and then. Well, veggies such as carrots and fruits such as apples make excellent low calorie treats.

Exercise: A diet doesn't do much if your pet is lounging around all day. So, get your pets enough exercise on a daily basis. Cats exercise differently than dogs. It's easier with a dog. You can take your dog for long walks, play fetch the ball, or let your dog swim. There are also many interactive toys such as Kongs where the dog has to work on getting that carrot treat out of the Kong. They also make interactive toys for cats now where the kitty can chase a toy mouse in a circle or other varieties. You can throw a toy mouse to the top of the stairs so the kitty has to run up and down stairs to fetch the mouse or simply wave a wand with a feather on the end to get kitty running and jumping. You can serve the food on top of a cat tree so kitty will have to do some climbing exercise to get to the food.

Once we have our pet down to an ideal weight, we have to make sure to maintain the weight. The best way to do this is to switch the food gradually to a maintenance diet and to continue with the exercise routine. Also, check the weight on a regular basis. You can do that with kitties or small dogs by holding them and stepping on your bathroom scale. Then weigh yourself without the pet. Subtract the last number from the first and you have your pet's weight. With larger dogs you might have to coax them to sit on the scale. Good luck!

So, as you can see, there are many things you can do to prevent and eliminate obesity before it leads to unwanted health issues. Just remember - keeping your pet healthy and in good shape is rewarding in so many ways.

Alrighty then, lets strap on the sweat bands and nibble on carrots. Till next time. Yours truly,


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