Obesity in our pets and the problems they cause.
When I was a veterinary student and then an intern several years ago, I had a chocolate Labrador retriever named Ender that will always be the “Best Dog Ever” (at least in my mind). He was laid back, playful and gentle, so he didn’t seem to mind that I was learning to be a veterinarian for 12-20 hours a day away from him. He was always very happy to see me and go out to play, but I noticed as time went on he couldn’t play as long and wanted to sleep a lot, especially for a 4 year old dog. Being the good student I performed an exam, and ran blood work. Everything was fine except he was about 10 lbs overweight. “Oh well” I said, “I will exercise him when I have more time…”
Fortunately for Ender, a surgery resident at my internship did not think that way. She gave me a long and strict lecture about my responsibility to my own pet as well as all my patients to help them live the longest happiest life I could, and good body condition and weight were critical for those goals. So, we sat down and did the proper calculations to determine how much Ender should be fed to lose the weight, and then maintain a healthy weight. Ender lost the weight over a couple months, and was like a puppy again. He was energetic, he could chase the ball all day long again, swim for hours, and just be a happy dog. He lived for 9 more happy years until cancer caught up to him. Thinking back, the one of most astonishing thing about him was he was one of the rare geriatric large dogs I know of to have few problems with arthritis. I truly believe the majority of that fortune was due to his having a healthy weight for most of his life.
Obesity is a serious problem in our pets. Looking at different sources, anywhere from 50-70% of our pets (cats and dogs) are overweight. Those numbers are astonishing because we as pet owners are responsible for feeding our pets, and have the power to make sure they are being fed a proper diet in the proper amounts. Here are a few health issues obesity contributes to:
Many arthritic problems are caused or worsened by the joints and spine carrying that extra weight. Minor problems with the hips, knees, elbows and spine are made worse and take longer to heal. Major problems such as cruciate ligament disease, and hip dysplasia can incapacitate our beloved pets.
Metabolic diseases such as diabetes are much more likely with obese cats and dogs.
Respiratory issues can not only be caused by but also made much worse by obesity.
When faced with a pet with a weight issue, we evaluate the pet’s lifestyle, diet and sometimes look for medical conditions that lead to weight gain, like hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease. Once we have a comprehensive view, we make recommendations for proper feeding plans and amounts, removing high calorie foods such as teats and table scraps, and proper exercise. Many of our clients report that after their pets have lost weight, they have more energy, seem happier and many of their health issues are gone, or at least much improved.
Our goal at Roanoke Animal Hospital is to enhance the bond between pets and their owners. One way we can help is by assisting your pets to live longer happier lives with a good body condition.
Dr. Jeff Covington