Battle of the Bulge
Battle of the Bulge (the furrier version)
It’s doubtful that our furry companions have ever been concerned about what they might look like in a 2-piece swimsuit, but did you know that obesity in pets can increase their risk for developing certain diseases? Since a dog’s thoughts are mostly preoccupied with chasing squirrels out of the yard and a cat’s thought’s are more preoccupied with chasing invisible insects (or where to nap next..), it’s up to their human caretakers to take matters into their own paws – er, hands.
Is a little pudge really that bad?
One study performed in age-matched Labrador Retrievers found that those kept at an ideal body condition lived an average of 2.5 years longer than their overweight counterparts. That’s a significant amount of dog years! In general, the equivalent of every overweight pound for a dog or cat is about 10-15 pounds for a human. Looking at it that way, a small breed dog or cat that’s even a little “pudgy” can actually be significantly overweight.
Isn’t a fat cat (or dog) a happy cat (or dog)?
Aside from being excess weight on your pet’s joints, fat cells also secrete inflammatory signals. Increased inflammation in the body can worsen or predispose to several diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, collapsing trachea (common in small breed dogs), asthma (common in some cats), and even some types of cancer. In fact, clinical signs of many of these diseases can be greatly improved, if not eliminated, with weight loss alone.
Cats: a special consideration
Cats always have to be more problematic, don’t they? In addition to the aforementioned diseases, overweight cats can be more prone to developing a condition called fatty liver disease. This disease usually comes about when an overweight cat goes off food for a number of days (reasons can include and illness and/or an external stressor) and body fat is used to provide calories. Since a cat’s liver was never meant to process large quantities of fat, the fat that being used for calories infiltrates the liver and the liver begins to fail. If left untreated, this condition is life-threatening.
How can I tell if my pet is overweight?
When assessing your pet, take a look from above and from the side. From above, you should be able to see a narrowing from the ribs to the waist. From the side, you should be able to see an upward tuck of the abdomen. If your pet looks “square”, he/she is likely carrying some extra weight. Another common location for excess fat storage is around the ribs. When feeling your pet’s ribcage, it should feel similar to the bones in the back of your hand – easily felt under a thin layer of skin and fat. If you have to dig in a little to feel the ribs, your pet could stand to lose some weight. For a picture diagram, visit http://vet.osu.edu/vmc/companion/our-services/nutrition-support-service/body-condition-scoring-chart.
How can I help my pet slim down?
Simply put: fewer calories and more exercise. Below are some tips how.
-Use a measuring cup to ensure consistent meal sizes from day to day. A Big Gulp cup does not count…
-If your pet is already overweight, a good rule of thumb is to reduce calorie intake by 20-25%
-Look for diets that are formulated for weight control
-Be smart about treats – decrease the overall amount your pet gets and try to incorporate fruits and veggies over store-bought treats
-Add in more play time with your pet! Slightly longer dog walks (weather permitting) and five to ten minutes of daily cat play can make a huge difference.
-Interactive food toys (like balls and puzzles) help discourage gorging at the bowl, especially for cats. A quick search on Google or YouTube will yield several DIY ideas.
Remember that weight loss in pets is both an important and complex topic. Having a discussion with your vet at your pet’s next appointment is the best way to tailor a plan to meet your pet’s personal needs and get him/her runway ready.