FloridaWild Veterinary Hospital Celebrates January as “Pet Obesity Awareness Month”
By Jo Singer, MSW, CSW, LCSW (Ret.)
Fat Cat: Flickr User: Les Chatfield
Rich, powerful tycoons are often called “fat cats." But there is nothing positive about “flabby felines” or “chubby canines." Sadly, many people still regard overweight dogs or kitties as “cute."
Realistically speaking, holistic veterinarian, Dr. Jean Hofve, internationally known for her expertise in pet food and nutrition emphasizes that “Obesity can lead to several serious health problems, such as liver disease, heart failure, renal disease and arthritis.”
Pet obesity has become one of the foremost health concerns in veterinary practices today. In 2015, the Ninth Pet Obesity Prevention National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Study revealed the alarming statistics that over 58.2% of cats and 54% dogs are overweight or obese.
Obesity in cats and dogs is a nutritional disease defined by an excess of body fat. Pets who are overly fed may have difficulty exercising or may have a genetic tendency to retain weight. These are the pets who are at risk of becoming obese.
What are some of the causes of pet obesity putting our beloved fur companions at risk of severe medical conditions?
Fat Dog: Flickr User: Rob Simmonds
The most common reason is an imbalance between the energy intake and the way that energy is utilized, meaning the dog or cat’s food intake is more than it can burn up. As dogs and cats age, obesity becomes even more common because of the pets’ decrease in its ability to exercise. Feeding high-calorie and carbohydrate diets, free-feeding, and giving too many treats can also put on unwanted pounds. There are also medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, that may cause obesity.
Pet obesity generally occurs in middle-aged dogs and cats between 5 and 10 years of age. Since physical activity starts waning, or changes in metabolism, neutered/spayed dogs, cats, and indoor kitties are at a much greater risk of becoming obese. However, this weight gain can be prevented in consultation with a veterinarian who will prescribe a program reducing the pet’s caloric intake and creating a tailor-made moderate exercise program.
What factors go into a diagnosis of obesity? Canines and felines who are obese have an excess body weight of approximately 10 to 15 percent. Using the 9-point scoring system, dogs and cats are diagnosed as obese when they reach a body-condition score that is greater than 7. The veterinarian will access the pet’s body-condition score by examining the animal, feeling its ribs, its lumbar area, tail, and head.
How is pet obesity treated? Weight loss and maintaining a consistent decreased body weight is the primary treatment for obesity in pets. This can be accomplished by the owner complying with the veterinarian’s prescribed species appropriate calorie reduction diet and exercise schedule relevant for the pet’s medical condition. For dogs this may consist of feeding a low fat, protein and fiber rich diet. Dietary protein stimulates metabolism and expenditure of energy while at the same time giving the dog a feeling of fullness. Although dietary fiber contains little energy, it stimulates intestinal metabolism and energy.
However, a weight reduction program for cats greatly differs from those designed for canines. With felines, simply reducing calories and fats or letting them skip too many meals can cause serious harm for obese kitties. According to Dr. Hofve, "Dieting to reduce calories may cause even worse problems, such as life-threatening liver disease. Skipping a single meal can throw a sensitive cat into a serious problem." Carbohydrates are the main scoundrel in feline obesity
Obese cats (just like humans) are at high risk of diabetes. Feeding diabetic cats a high-fiber diet can help the cats lose fat but the animal also loses muscle. The “Catkins" diet is far more appropriate. It’s a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates which can help reduce weight and prevent obese cats from getting diabetes. Many of the "light" diets lower the fat content. Unfortunately “light” diets raise the grain content, that leads to an increased carbohydrate level. These "light" diets are also species-inappropriate and many cats do not lose the weight for which they are intended.
Your veterinarian is your pet’s ideal “partner” to design a healthy species-appropriate diet and exercise program which will help your pet lose weight correctly. In celebration of Pet Obesity Awareness Month, FloridaWild Veterinary Hospital is offering 10% off Woof Watchers and 50% off play-dates with any purchase from the Funky Mutt Market.
We think helping your pet get into tip-top condition is a great New Year’s resolution. Share your thoughts in a comment.