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Obesity –not just a people problem

Obesity –not just a people problem

by Dr. Carla Case-... on Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:46pm

 

Submitted by Lisa A. Yackel, CVPM, PHR

Hospital Administrator at Case Veterinary Hospital

 

Scientific evidence is overwhelming in linking obesity to a wide variety of diseases.  The correct diet and weight can add years to one’s life.  Obesity has a remarkably high prevalence in the United States and is a growing trend. 

Although these statements are appropriate for us humans, they are certainly true for our canine and feline family members.  In fact,   53% of dogs and 55% of cats are classified as overweight or obese by their veterinarians.  One veterinarian who studies obesity states, “If pet overweight and obesity were an infectious disease, we would call it an epidemic.”

Being overweight can lead to several metabolic diseases including endocrinopathies, cardiorespiratory disease, urogenital disorders, cancer, immune-impairment and osteoarthritis.   Obesity-related hip and back problems are often a leading cause of euthanasia in large breed dogs.  Most clients are aware of the risks of having an overweight pet but find it hard to make the commitment to place their pets on a reduction plan.  Pet obesity is a people problem, however, not a pet problem.  People love their pets to death.  If pets are consistently fed a high-quality diet, they will usually self-regulate their own weight.  However, owners tend to show their love the form of offering food.  The pet then responds with appreciation to over-feeding by using begging behavior and the love=food cycle is perpetuated. 

At Case Veterinary Hospital, we feel nutrition is a key part of any physical exam.  A Body Condition Score, or BCS, is taken on every pet we see.  Although often uncomfortable for both the health care team and the client, we try to have a conversation about the pet’s weight.  Many clients are surprised that their pet is not an ideal weight.  Our goal of wanting to see a “little rib” is often met with the some resistance that the pet is fine just how he is. 

Here are some of the comments we often hear:

“I’ve been feeding my cat the same food for years. Why do I need to change it now?”

“Bruno has only gained a pound or two.  I’m not worried.”  

“There are so many different brands and kinds of food in the store, how do I know which one to choose?”

Of course, we have answers to all of these questions and we always welcome the opportunity to educate clients on ways they can combat this disease (and yes, it is a disease).  Nutritional requirements change through the life stages of your pet just like us.  50 years olds cannot eat like a 17 year old adolescent.  And, that couple of extra pounds for a dog is often the equivalent of 20-30 pounds on us.

Working with your veterinarian, you can get your pet on a balanced diet that reduces calorie intake.  He or she can suggest healthy snacks so you can continue to “show your love” by giving treats.  One item that works great is frozen green beans or you can use baby carrots. 

We can also help develop  a good exercise program by evaluating the activity level of the pet.  Fall is a great time to get out and enjoy the cooler weather and your pet will benefit from the extra time spent outside exercising.

 Having an accountability partner dramatically increases the success of any plan of action  for both humans and pets.   Aligning yourself with your veterinary healthcare team will be a huge benefit and give you an edge to being successful in getting the extra weight off your pet.  If your veterinarian doesn’t give you a pet food recommendation (statistics show only 15% do) then ask for one.  Don’t rely on the pet food store sales person to give you the sales pitch of their current favorite food.  Look to a professional who can take your whole pet’s physical health assessment into account and base the recommendation on what will work for your pet’s individual needs.

Don’t know where to start?  Come by Case Veterinary Hospital and ask for a weigh in and BCS by one of our Nutritional Advisors.  It is free and will get you started in a partnership with someone who knows the huge value of taking charge of your pet’s weight.   

For more information go to: www.petobesityprevention.com  or www.petfoodinstitute.org

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