Weighing in on Pet Obesity

Weighing in on Pet Obesity

A staggering 33% of American adults are obese. But, if you think this problem is limited just to humans, think again. Our lifestyles directly affect our pets, so the number of obese pets has risen at a similar rate in the last few years.

As in humans, the primary causes of obesity in pets are overeating and underexercising. It is estimated that 25 to 30% of cats and as much as 50% of dogs in America are obese today. Unfortunately, many pet owners are totally unaware that their pet is overweight and equally unaware of the health problems their pet can suffer due to obesity.

Each year, Nestle Purina puts on a Weight Loss Challenge in an effort to help educate the public about the dangers of pet obesity. Basically, the same health problems that you or I would suffer from being overweight also apply to Fido. These risks include the following:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease and High Blood Pressure
  • Liver Disease
  • Respiratory Problems, Decreased Stamina and Heat Intolerance
  • Increased Cancer Risk

stockvault-dog126236Some of the issues we see in our surgery center that are directly related to obesity are increased surgical and anesthetic risk and joint and spinal problems. While there are always risks involved with surgery and anesthesia, these risks are increased because of the effect of obesity on the respiratory and cardiac systems. Increased risks include cardiac arrest, difficulty in coming out of anesthesia, and difficulty in the surgery itself due to layers of fat in the body.
Many of the cases we see have joint or disc problems, such as torn cruciate ligaments, luxating patellas, or intervertebral disc disease (back problems). Those extra pounds increase your dogs chance of developing these conditions as well as joint arthritis as they grow older.
Try these tips to help your pet lose weight:

  • First, have your veterinarian run some labwork to make sure there isn’t a chemical imbalance that is causing Fido’s weight problem.
  • Feed Fido smaller portions twice a day. Instead of keeping food in the dish throughout the day, pick it up after 15 minutes. If you suffer from guilt when Fido looks as though he’s starving and begs for more, feel free to toss him a few veggies — green beans and carrots are often favorites.
  • Make sure your pet is getting enough exercise. Take him on a couple of long walks every week, and schedule in some play time. Ball fetching is an excellent fun activity for Fido that won’t put undo stress on his joints. Another alternative if Fido is an “only child” is to arrange a play date a couple of times a week with another dog. That will usually provide ample opportunity for sufficient exercise for both dogs.
  • Feed Fido a high-quality, low-fat dog food. Most name brands offer good alternative foods for weight loss. It’s generally best to not buy a generic brand as, unfortunately, you usually get what you pay for.

Some breeds are more prone to weight gain than others. Basset Hounds, Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds and Labs head the list of our most frequent patients. Research shows that you can add another 2 years or more to your pet’s life by keeping his weight in check.
If you have tried everything and still aren’t having any success getting Fido’s weight in line, ask your veterinarian about a new product called “Slentrol®” which works as an appetite suppressant and boosts the metabolism of your dog. This is a prescription only drug, and your dog will need to have regular bloodwork done to ensure there are no health risks (every drug has potential side effects).
Here’s your opportunity to “weigh in” on this timely topic.
If you are in the veterinary field: How many of your patients are overweight? Do your clients realize their pets are overweight? What recommendations do you give your clients?
If you are a pet owner: Do you know what the optimum weight for your pet is? Do you have problems keeping your pet’s weight at the optimal level? What makes this difficult? What have you found that works to keep your pet fit and healthy?

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