Common Problems in Other Pets

  1. Obesity

1. Obesity

Obesity is a common health problem for pets. Obesity is associated with arthritis, diabetes, breathing problems and decreased life span. 

Why Obesity is a Problem

Here are some of problems that obese animals have to live with:  

1. Arthritis
Overweight pets have extra stress on their joints that leads to the joint degeneration and creates more pain. Weight management alone decreases and can sometimes even eliminate the need for arthritis medications. The problem is made worse by joint pain which leads to poorer mobility, which in turn leads to greater obesity.

2. Respiratory Compromise
Obese pet have extra fat deposits around their chest, which can have a constricting effect. This can restrict breathing, as more work is required to move the respiratory muscles. The pet also overheats more easily. Many cases of tracheal collapse and chronic coughs can be managed with weight loss alone.

3. Diabetes
Extra body fat leads to insulin resistance in cats just as it does in humans. In fact, obese cats have been found to have a 50% decrease in insulin sensitivity. Weight management is especially important in decreasing a cat’s risk for the development of diabetes mellitus.

4. Increased Surgical or Anaesthetic Risk
Obesity causes an extra anaesthetic risk because drug dosing becomes less accurate. (It is hard to estimate a patient’s lean body mass for drug dosing if it is encased in a fat suit). Furthermore, anaesthesia is inherently suppressive to respiration and adding a constrictive jacket of fat only serves to make proper air exchange more challenging.

How Did My Pet Get Overweight? 

Your pet relies completely on someone else for feeding and exercise, so if the owner or person responsible for feeding can regulate feeding and exercise, weight loss should be achieved as long as there are no underlying medical or surgical problems.

Measuring the food using a kitchen scales
Many commercial pet diets include a feeding guide to how much food should be fed to a pet of a certain weight. Like humans, pets are individuals so their needs vary. These are guidelines only and like humans, each pet is different, some may require more food per day than other depending on their genetics, metabolism and exercise.

Some animals are predisposed to obesity. Dog breeds with genetic tendencies towards obesity include the Golden Retriever, Dachshund, Beagle, Boxer, Basset Hound, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Labrador.

Children at Home
It can be very difficult to stop children giving extra treats to their dog.  Similarly, pets that are allowed to roam often find food or rubbish such as food scraps. It is very difficult to control the diet of an outdoor cat as neighbours may also feed it.

Underestimating the Power of Treats
For some people, feeding treats to the pet constitutes a major part of the human-animal bond and they do not wish to give it up or reduce it. Pet treats are often high in calories. Speak to your vet about low calorie treats.

Treats should not exceed 10% of the pet’s total daily food intake.

Neutering a pet is good for public health. Fewer strays means fewer dog bites, less public resources needed for animal shelters, good for a better house pet (less urine marking, tendency to fight or roam) and no unwanted litters. 

The change in hormones creates slows metabolism. Feeding a food designed especially for sterilized pets can help reduce any potential weight gain. 

Evaluation by Body Score

Sometimes it is hard to recognize that your pet is overweight as the weight gain is usually gradual. To assist in this evaluation, body condition scoring has been developed.  To evaluate your pets body condition score, your vet or vet nurse will feel for a small amount of padding over the ribs. It should be possible to feel the ribs and there should be a small tuck in the belly where the hind legs meet the body. 

Diet and Exercise

Trying to cut back on food if you are overfeeding your pet will not result in weight loss and may cause your pet harm. Reducing the amount of a regular diet (one not meant for weight loss), can lead to deficiency in vitamins or minerals. Feeding a prescription diet made for weight loss, following the guide and coming in for regular weigh-ins at the veterinary clinic is whats needed.

If there is more than one pet in your household you will need to consider feeding your pets separately.

Using interactive toys that can be used when you are not home or able to spend a lot of time with your pet for example working long hours. A regular exercise regime suitable for your pet will help with weight loss. This could include swimming, walking or play.

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