A Message from the Vet - February 2010

Have you heard about the obesity problem in our pets? It has been the subject of several news reports recently, and it brings to our attention the importance of the relationship with our pets and their quality of life.

I see many plump dogs and fat cats in our practice. They range from those with a cuddly layer of baby fat in young ones to the morbidly obese. Many of us fail to recognize that out pets are overweight, owners and veterinarians alike. That beautiful coat of fur can hide a lot of sins. Body condition scoring is an effective way to judge your pet's fitness. You can check out your pet's body condition score with the WeightCheck Tool and more at www.petfit.com.

It is a well-documented fact that obese cats and dogs are predisposed to a higher incidence of health problems as they age: diabetes, arthritis, expiratory airway dysfunction, and some forms of cancer. Delayed onset of chronic health problems and longevity are benefits to those pets that have reduced calorie intake. A couple of recent studies showed that of a group of "diet-restricted" dogs, only 10% developed arthritis vs. 77% of the control group. The study of these dogs fed lower calories lived 2 years longer than their less fortunate, but prosperous-looking friends!

Exercise and food intake are the two components of maintaining a healthy pet. Frequent walks with your pet and regular play times with your dog and cat will contribute to muscle tone and a healthy body. Your selection of food is often the most impactful part of the equation. If your pet shows signs of being overweight or obese, choose a commercial brand of food that identifies itself with the AAFCO endorsement. Many pet foods (half on the market in the latest study) imply they are for weight control or weight loss and health, but actually exceed the recommended density for "light" labeled food. Many offer no instructive guide on feeding.

Choose an appropriate food, and follow the feeding guide. Weigh your pet monthly until its ideal weight is reached. Choose rewarding treats wisely; try natural low-calorie treats, carrots, or ice cubes for a snack.

Watch your pet reach its full potential and lead a healthy, long life!

John Haddock, DVM

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Last updated 2014 May 10.