Thu, Nov. 21

New Year's resolutions for your pets

Another year has started, and many of us have gone through and thought of our New Year’s resolutions. This time of year I am amazed at the number of advertisements for weight loss supplements, diets and sales on exercise equipment.

Interestingly enough, apparently the number one animal abuse that is stated by those in animal control and veterinarians could be related. Yep, our beloved animals share our concerns; they too are overweight and sometimes obese. (If you are like me, you may be cringing when you think of the last cookie you fed your dog or cat!)

Nowadays it seems that everywhere I go I see treats for pets. Dog treats, horse treats, kitty treats even bird treats…I will state I have never seen a reptile treat but the day may be coming. Sure, treats are a useful training tool, but how long are we training? As a society, and yes I am guilty of this too, it seems to be somehow okay to give an animal a treat…especially when the days are short, workdays are long, and there’s no time to walk Fido. When we get to the point where food is love, animals can become chubby and out of shape.

Our pets are also pretty darn smart, they can ‘play on our emotions’, meaning they are conditioned over time to begging. It can become second nature for owners to put the plate on the floor with scraps for the dogs to lick clean (Hey it was going in the dishwasher and needed to be rinsed anyway). Fluffy gets pretty keen on the idea that if she refuses the food, her owner will offer something else…usually tastier!

The pet food industry is big business and food that doesn’t taste good does not get eaten. If our pets don’t pounce on the kibble and eat with reckless abandon we don’t think the food is good. In reality, the feral cat will eat several small meals a day, hunting in between. They do not normally overeat. Sometimes they may try a dozen times to catch their dinner before they are successful. As you can imagine many calories are burned up in the process of hunting and gathering.

We are accustomed to cleaning our plates; therefore we believe animals should do the same thing. To make diets that sell, flavor enhancers, extra sugar and fats are added to the diet to make it more palatable. It wouldn’t be unusual for a small amount of the kibble to be what the animal requires per day and yet they are given a whole cup. Additionally, they didn’t have far to go to ‘hunt’ their food, in fact most times the food doesn’t move at all.

Horses and birds are not immune to being overweight…give your horse grass hay and a lot of the time they poke at it, not really wanting to eat it. Give them alfalfa and then they are happy! Well, if I had a choice between leaf lettuce and low cal dressing versus a chocolate sundae, I would have the same problem. Birds do this by preferentially eating seeds which is not a balanced diet, again the seed is eaten eagerly and makes it a product easily sold by the pet industry, pellets take time to be accepted even if they are the right food.

Now Fido and Fluffy could care less if they are overweight from the standpoint that they do not have to worry about fitting into their clothes…their clothes grow with them. Nor do they care if anyone calls them tubby. Health wise there are a multitude of problems associated with being obese. Heart disease, diabetes, laminitis, arthritis, lung disease and many others can occur as a result of obesity many not reversible, being able to move does concern Fido.

Sadly the hardest part about pets being overweight is that their owners are genuinely doing their best at being loving, responsible owners. We aren’t talking typical abuse; these are well meaning owners, many of which may not see what their veterinarian sees as problems in the animals. Also some breeds are more predisposed to packing on the pounds.

The bottom line is the overall health of the pet, the calories consumed may far exceed the calories burned, resulting in chubby Chihuahuas and tubby Terriers. We are seeing calorie control foods, and scarily enough even some weight loss pills for pets. Pets at the proper weight are happier and more active. Even though this seems to be a ‘condition’ that is a delicate situation to talk to owners about at times…no one likes the overweight talk…we need as a responsible pet country to bite the bullet and realize that Fluffy or Fido care more about being able to breathe and move than they do about the jerky treats! (Even though they tell you they’ll cut back tomorrow)

If you are reading this and casting glances at your fuzzy friends wondering if they may have put on winter weight, and would like an opinion whether Fido is fluffy firm or fat give us a call at the clinic, we would love to help you!

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