If Our Pets Could Talk
By Jackie Kellum
Has your cat or dog lost their hips, and looks more like a butterball? Then possibly your pet has become obese from “love over feeding”. Excess weight is easier to prevent than treat, so keeping a lifelong healthy weight will help keep your pet healthier and happier.
If there is not a specific medical condition causing obesity diagnosed by your Vet., the most common cause is an imbalance between food intake and its usage. The same as in humans, the pet is eating more than it can possibly ‘burn’. Obesity also becomes more common in old age because of the normal decrease in the pet’s ability to exercise. Unhealthy eating habits, such as high-calorie foods and frequent treats is a contributing factor.
There have been many studies done mostly with dogs, on the long-term effect of obesity of our pets. During my research, it has shown that both cats and dogs are both affected negatively by obesity. Both species have the increased potential to develop the same types of medical problems. One dog study showed dogs who are trim live longer (2 years on average) than their mildly overweight counterparts. The study also showed reduced risk of some diseases or developing them later in life. Some studies showed non-obese cats may also see similar benefits.
This is a short summary of medical conditions caused by pet obesity. (A) When having surgery or need for anesthesia, the obese pet is at higher risk for complications or death, and also are less heat tolerant, (B) Many pets require special care in selecting the correct dose for medications, (C) Obese pets who stop eating when ill, etc.. are at greater risk for developing a potentially life-threatening liver condition called Hepatic Lipidosis, (D) Overweight pets develop an increased risk for many types of cancer, heart disease, hypertension, torn ligaments, hormonal imbalances, (E) Obesity creates extra fat, which does not just sit there, it secretes hormones into the blood steam, that increases stress and inflammation in the body, making it more difficult to fight infectious diseases, (F) Overweight pets are almost five times more likely to develop lameness due to osteoarthritis, with faster degeneration of affected joints, (G) Obese cats are three times more likely to need veterinary care for non-allergic skin conditions, possibly because the cats cannot reach all parts of their body to properly groom themselves, and (H) Diabetes, is not only a risk factor, but can make the diabetes more difficult to control.
FYI: Unlike most other mammals, cats do not have the enzyme amylase secreted in their saliva, which helps digests carbohydrates. An ideal cat diet should contain low carbohydrates and high protein. [Read the pet food labels]. In general a diet that is rich in [identifiable] dietary protein and fiber, low in fat, are typically recommended, since dietary protein stimulates metabolism and energy expenditure, and creates the feeling of fullness. Weight loss should be gradual and consist of a healthy diet with sufficient exercise. Even reducing a weight loss of 6 - 8% in dogs showed reduced pain and requiring fewer medications. A weight reduction program should be discussed with your Vet.
Many pet owners believe that feeding their pet is a sign of love, which is the main reason for over-feeding. An animal that is constantly over-fed will recognize this human behavior, and will then increase their begging. The animal’s owner then thinks that the animal loves him in return, so this vicious cycle of “overfeeding” begins/continues. The best way to show love for your pet is to feed them in a way ensuring a healthy and long life. Also give him more time, attention and non-food rewards.
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