Watch those table scraps for Fido’s sake
It may be tempting during the holidays with an abundance of food in the house to share with your pet. But remember, obesity isn’t just for humans; pets can experience the health problem too. Obesity can shorten an animal’s lifespan, or at the very least, affect its quality of life.It’s estimated as many as 25 percent of dogs and cats that enter a pet clinic are overweight, according to Dr. Alice Blue-McLendon, a veterinarian at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.The reasons for obesity in animals are the same ones that apply to humans – overeating and a lack of exercise. The rule of burning more calories than are taken in is true for pets just as it is for people.”Almost all obese pets are mature animals, usually two years or older,” Blue-McLendon said. “The majority of obesity in dogs and cats occurs from about ages 2 to 10. It’s easier to get dogs to exercise than it is cats. It’s harder to manage weight control on cats.”And animals that have been neutered are more likely to be obese, Blue-McLendon said.Obese animals can suffer a variety of health problems like developing heart and liver problems, arthritis, diabetes, bladder cancer and skin disorders. Also, animals that are overweight have a higher surgical risk while undergoing anesthesia.Obesity in dogs occurs in some breeds more than others. Dachshunds, Labrador retrievers, cocker spaniels, beagles, basset hounds and some rottweilers have a greater genetic tendency toward obesity.Cat obesity is not confined to any specific breed, according to Blue-McLendon, but a significant proportion of the cat population tends to be overweight. Diabetes and hepatic lipidosis, a potentially fatal liver disease, are conditions that affect obese cats.As with humans, controlling obesity requires no magic formula.”The pet owner needs to decrease the amount of food given to the animal,” Blue-McLendon said.”If the animal is obese, you need to take it to your veterinarian and he or she can diagnose the problem. It’s important to take the pet in every 3-4 weeks to be re-weighed to determine if it is getting closer to its optimal weight.”Exercising your pet is also recommended, and if a dog enjoys swimming, it helps a great deal. “Sometimes, a special diet may have to be prescribed and these are available from many pet food companies,” Blue-McLendon said.
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