Animals are Not Immune to Obesity
By Dr. Rebekah Frost – OBSERVER Columnist
On a bulletin board in one of our clinic exam rooms hangs a small card with a picture of a 1 oz piece of cheese on it.
If you flip the card over, it says “Feeding this 1 ounce piece of cheese to your 10-pound cat or dog is equivalent to a human eating 3 1/2 whole hamburgers or 4 chocolate bars! Little do we understand that our pets suffer greatly from just that tiny table scrap or that little piece of cheese we slip under the table.
Turas was a 20-pound Papillon that should have been 10 pounds. He was owned by my grandmother and was treated as a part of the family. He would get buttered toast and eggs in the morning, leftover ham for lunch, and frozen pizza for dinner. He would clean all her plates after meals. She insisted it was good for him, despite his weight. He knew how to count with his barks for food and would perform a variety of tricks for his leftover table scraps. As little Turas aged, he developed osteoarthritis and heart disease which was partially due to his obesity. The heart disease became severe very rapidly, and he passed away from the overload of fluid in his lungs.
Obesity is an epidemic in our pets. Obesity leads to a multitude of health problems. The first problem that comes to mind is diabetes! I am going to be honest – I HATE DIABETES! When I newly diagnose a pet with diabetes, my heart sinks. Diabetes shortens your pet’s life by putting added stress on your pet’s kidneys and other organ systems. It is also one of the most difficult diseases to regulate and predict.
Half of treating a diabetic pet is our expert advice on how much insulin to give and the proper diet to help regulate your pet’s sugar. The other half is up to the owner. I know how I am when treating my own pets. I forget to give the medication one day, or my pet gets in to the other pet’s food. In my household it would be extremely challenging to treat a diabetic pet. I make sure to keep my pets at a healthy weight and feed them a proper diet to prevent this horrible disease!
Other issues that arise from your pet being overweight include heart disease, breathing issues, increased stress on your pets joints leading to a greater risk of osteoarthritis and injury. One injury I see quite often in overweight dogs is ACL tears. The ligament that helps hold the knee joint together can be very easily torn if your pet is overweight. These injuries require very costly surgery, weeks of physical therapy and rehabilitation, and can lead to lifelong arthritis of the knee joint. Avoidance is key by not allowing your pet to become overweight in the first place. Another injury we diagnose in our clinic is intervertebral disk disease in long backed overweight dogs like the dacshound, the corgi, and the bassett hound. These dogs are more prone to this disease because of their long backs and added weight on their spines. Disk injury can lead to complete paralysis of the limbs and the possibility of never walking again without costly spine surgery. Why not do all you can to avoid this at all costs?
Many clients blame their husbands, the pet’s grandma, and their inability to say no to those big brown eyes when they are sitting down to dinner. Ultimately you as their owner are the only one who has control over your pets’ diet. I recommend when eating meals to put your pet in another room. This will help prevent giving in to those sad begging eyes. Give your relatives an ultimatum – no treats or they can’t see your pet! Have your pet’s food ready and measured for the day if they are being watched while you are away.
When making your New Years resolutions, don’t forget to include your pets! You and your pet together can cut calories, exercise more, and get on a diet plan that helps with weight loss. If you don’t know where to start, make and appointment with your veterinarian, have your pet’s body condition evaluated, and have your veterinarian come up with a diet plan that fits for you and your pet! Our goal is prevention at the Dunkirk Animal Clinic. We recommend keeping your pet healthy to prevent these diseases and to give your pet a better quality of life in the long run.