Friday, December 28, 2012

Pudgy Pooches and Fat Felines


We have all heard about the child obesity problem in this country.  Obesity in pets, a preventable condition, is now also causing veterinarians to be concerned.  In a 2011 study, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) found that 24.9% of cats and 21.4% of dogs were overweight. 

An abundance of food with not enough exercise often results in a pudgy pooch or a fat feline.  Unfortunately, that extra weight can cause a multitude of problems, such as osteoarthritis, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, respiratory disease, dermatitis, and a shortened life span.

A few simple tests can help determine if your pet has a weight problem.  The first should be that the pet’s ribs can be felt without pressing down.  In addition, the pet should have a waist.  This is the area between the back of the ribs and the hips, when looking at your pet from above.  Also, when looking at your pet from the side, the belly should go up from the bottom of the ribcage to the inside of the thighs. 

If you think your pet has packed on one too many pounds, schedule an examination with your veterinarian.  There are diseases that cause a pet to gain and you want to be sure to rule out any physical problems.  In addition, like humans, before beginning any weight loss program and increased exercise workout, it is advisable to be positive the pet is healthy enough to sustain it. 

So how does one get fido or kitty to slim down?  The bottom line is to employ calorie restriction and be sure your pet has daily exercise.

Owners often feel their pet does not eat much and are concerned they will go hungry.  Therefore, by providing an abundance of yummy treats and/or people foods that are not in the best interest of the pet, the feeling is negated.  Dog or cat foods should meet all of the pet’s dietary needs, without having to add additional table scraps.  Ingesting fewer calories is a good first step to pet weight loss, and your veterinarian can help with recommendations on how to accomplish it.

Once the vet gives a clean bill of health, it is a good time to start an exercise regimen.

For dogs, a wonderful way to begin is taking a daily walk.  Increase activity once it is determined the pet can handle it without undue fatigue or stress.  However, it is always important to watch for any unusual physical signs or difficulty breathing.  Be attuned and, if the pet wants to stop, let him.  

Cats also get fat from lack of exercise.  Though prodding a cat into activity may be a bit more difficult, there are a few ways to entice him to move.  Cats adore climbing on or into things, batting, swatting at, and scratching objects.  Cat trees are an excellent way to stretch and tone muscles.  In addition, interactive cat toys that mimic escaping prey or spark normal behavior can be utilized.

For both dogs and cats, consider adopting a playmate from the local shelter if the pet is the only animal in the household.  The pet will have a “like” companion to play with, which assists in preventing boredom, and sedentary behavior.

By providing proper food portions, good nutrition, and adequate exercise, you can help your pet have a longer, more enjoyable life.

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