Animal Obesity

Help your pets work off the extra pounds

Karoo’s Korner: Obesity in Dogs and Cats

Hey, it is the New Year: wag your tail or raise a paw if you have made New Year’s Resolutions! Bet a bunch of your human pack members have! And what is the most common resolution? To lose weight! Hmm, maybe us critters and our human family should work on this together.

Obesity is currently the most common nutritional disorder in our canine and feline population. Over 30% of adult cats and dogs are overweight. That is a lot of Fatty Fanny Felines and Broad in the Beam Bowsers. Human pack leaders: you may think we are awfully cute when we are big and round, but we will live longer and healthier lives if we are at a healthy body weight.

How can our humans tell if we are getting too big in the girth? First, have them run their hands over your ribs, there should be a little muscle, then the ribs should be easily felt. If they have to push hard to feel ribs, or can’t feel them at all, there is too much fat. Looking from above there should be a nice waist. Looking from the side we don’t want to see a bulging belly! Grossly obese pets have heavy fat deposits over their lower backs, at the base of their tail, around the face and on the legs. Not a pretty site, especially when bikini season arrives!

But looks are not everything. Obesity has been associated with health problems such as arthritis (sure get achy in those joints), diabetes, liver disease, urinary incontinence (leaking on the bed at night, don’t like that!), cardiovascular problems (my heart gets a-pounding with little exertion), respiratory problems (start panting after just a short walk) and increased anesthetic and surgical risk.

How do we get overweight? Too many calories taken in, too few calories burned. Please, human parents: stop killing us with kindness! Those tasty bites, licks and tastes really add up the calories! Especially us dogs will gulp down almost anything you offer us. Heck, we hardly even taste it, down the hatch it goes! Think about how little most of us are when compared to big humans. That “bite” you give to us may be the equivalent of an 8 ounce steak to you! It doesn’t take many bits of bacon, pinches of pasta or morsels of meat to pack fat onto our frames. Time to get “calorie conscious”!

Note to humans: we will eat just about anything you give us, so be very aware of what you are offering for meals and snacks. There are many good lower calorie and higher fiber foods available, from the store or from your veterinarian. Think about low calorie snacks such as fresh vegetables (i.e. carrots or green beans), low calorie biscuits or even cold and crunchy ice cubes!

And people: if your pet is overweight, you are not getting enough exercise! DAILY walks, one or more, are very important. Ah, you say “But it is raining outside!” Hmm, ever heard of rain gear? Bundle up and get out there! Granted, there are some dogs that refuse to go out in the rain, but if you took them to the beach, I bet many of them would get over it! So you humans need to get over it! Once you develop the habit of going out, no matter what the weather is, your canine companion will be ready and excited to go out! Sorry, our feline cousins are not going to participate in this activity for any reason! There are lots of indoor toys for finicky felines and crazy canines that will allow for indoor play. Check them out!

For the grossly obese dog there is now a medication that can help in weight loss. But all the other weight loss tips need to be followed. Before starting any weight loss program with your pet, have a full physical exam done by your veterinarian. There may be some laboratory testing that needs to be done to look for any underlying disease process that is adding to the weight problem. Check with your veterinarian for help in the weight management of your pet.

Remember, the bond between you and your pet is an important key factor in the weight loss process. Daily management of your pet’s food intake and exercise depends entirely on you!

Let’s get out there and get healthy!

Waggingly yours, Karoo

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