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Plump Pets

posted March 1st, 2015 by
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Plump

Plump Pets

 

By Kiley Roberson

 

It’s not just a people problem; many of our pets are packing on the pounds too. Just over half of all cats and dogs in U.S. households are either overweight or obese, according to a survey from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.

And just like in people, extra weight means extra health problems associated with it.

“Excess weight predisposes pets to a variety of illnesses,” explains Dr. Scott Floyd, DVM at Midtown Vets in Oklahoma City. “Diabetes, intervertebral disk rupture, arthritis, collapsing trachea, heart-associated illness and fatty liver syndrome, to name a few.”

Dr. Floyd says he treats at least two to three obese pets every week, and not surprisingly, treats are part of the problem. He says over-treating, free-feeding and lack of exercise are the major contributing factors to pet obesity. We’re all living such busy lives, that a long walk with Fido or tossing around a ball of yarn with Fluffy just isn’t a top priority. As we do less and less, so do our pets, and before you know it the scale is going up.

It might seem like an extra pound or two on our four-legged companions isn’t so terrible. But that little bit can be a significant percentage of a pet’s total weight. For example, a Yorkie who tips the scales at “just” 12 pounds is equivalent to a 5-foot- 4-inch woman who weighs 218 pounds.

Some pet owners ignore the health hazards associated with overweight pets, focusing on how cute their plump kitty or roly-poly puppy looks. But overfeeding a fat cat or dog is loving it to death basically. That’s because overweight and obese pets also have much shorter life spans.

“Preventing obesity will contribute to a much higher quality of life for your pet       and could certainly lead to a longer life,” says Dr. Mark Shackelford, DVM at 15th Street Veterinary Group in Tulsa. “Your pet will  be happier, healthier and much more energetic.”

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention says inactive pets are more likely to become depressed or anxious—habits most pet owners associate with behavioral problems. That’s because a sedentary life-style leads to an alteration  in the three major brain chemicals responsible for mood, and that can create emotional issues. Aerobic activity for as little as 20 to 30 minutes a day balances norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin levels, resulting in a better, more stable mood. Also, well-exercised pets won’t be quite as wired indoors, so they’ll be less prone to chewing, barking and other troublesome behaviors.

How can you know if your pet is overweight? You may not be able to tell by appearance alone, since pets can appear to be in good shape even when they aren’t.

“The standard that applies to most animals is that the owner should be able to count the ribs with their fingers, but not be able to see the ribs under the skin,” explains Dr. Shackelford. “At the appropriate weight, pets should only have a thin layer of fat over their ribs and show an hourglass shape from above. If you have a long-haired pet, it may be best to do this when your dog is wet. If you’re in doubt, you can always ask your vet.”

If your pup is a little plumper than you thought, don’t panic, but do take action. “Restricting food is the first step in fighting obesity,” says Dr. Shackelford. “Feeding a recommended amount of pet food with a minimum of treats usually will help with weight loss. Some dogs and cats, due to genetic makeup causing difficulty in dieting, will have a special weight loss diet prescribed for them, and exercise is very important. Exercise will help burn calories and will also help change the metabolism  to help burn calories more efficiently.”

Exercising dogs is usually simple, but what about cats? You can try  toys that engage them or scattering their food around in small portions through-out the house so they have to hunt for it and, in turn, get more exercise.