Pet Articles

Check your Pet for Obesity to Prevent Disease

Prevention of illnesses is becoming increasingly more important among pet owners, as opposed to the times when veterinarians were consulted only when pets were already sick.

These days, owners will provide preventative care routinely to their pets, including vaccinations, deworming and teeth cleaning, but obesity is an underestimated health problem.

Obesity is the most frequent nutritional problem encountered in veterinary medicine, and approximately 20-25% of the cats and dogs I see in my practice are in that condition.

An animal is considered obese when it is 10-15 percent above its ideal weight. Obesity can occur when caloric intake (food consumption) exceeds caloric expenditure (exercise and activity).

There are several ways to determine whether your pet is facing a weight problem. One is palpating the tissue overlying your pet’s ribs. When doing this, you should be able to feel the ribs right under the skin with a very small amount of fat in between. Another experiment involves looking down at your pet’s body shape. You should see a definite waistline just behind the ribs.

An excess of fat in the abdominal area is a sign of obesity. As a rule the body weight of a young adult animal is considered to be its ideal weight.

Owners should check their pet’s body condition at least every month, as obesity is a very insidious condition frequently only noticed after the animal has gained a significant amount of weight.

Checking your pet’s weight is extremely important as obesity can lead to conditions like arthritis, respiratory problems, heart disease, skin problems, heat intolerance, urinary problems, increased anaesthetic risk, constipation, diabetes, general discomfort and a shorter lifespan.

Obesity should be dealt with as a medical problem and taken care of immediately when recognized, as the condition is easier to control in its early stage.

Should a reduction of your pet’s body weight be called for, your veterinarian should be consulted to establish a weight control program which involves the doctor and owner determining the animal’s ideal weight and feeding the pet an amount of food that will provide only 65% of its needs in maintaining the ideal weight.

Reducing diets are a good way to deal with a pet’s obesity. This is a special pet food high in fibre content and less concentrated in calories, allowing for larger portions and satisfying your pet’s hunger.

Another part of the program is encouraging mild to moderate exercise and increasing it progressively to support the weight loss.

While on a weight loss program keep your pet under medical surveillance by bringing it to the veterinarian every three or four weeks. Do not feed your pet anything besides the reducing diet while on the program…..especially not treats.

When your pet has reached its ideal weight, you can have it remain on the reducing diet, but with the amount of food necessary to remain at the ideal weight, or return a maintenance diet. Your pet’s weight should be monitored regularly to prevent a relapse.

A successful program will be greatly rewarding for you and your pet, and having your veterinarian involved will be of great help in terms of advice and supervising the maintenance of your pet’s weight control.

Article courtesy of:
Dr. Bernier
Montreal West Veterinary Hospital

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