Obesity and Canine Rehabilitation Part 1

Pets that are at an ideal body condition helps promote a leaner, longer, healthier life. It also reduces potential for developing weight-related health conditions. Helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels, healthy blood pressure and heart rate. The ideal body weight is considered where the ribs are palpable, but not visible, slight waist observed behind ribs when viewed from above, and abdomen tucked up, flank fold present. Obese is defined as being 30% above normal weight.

Below are some reasons why pets are obese/ overweight. One of the reasons, which I am guilty of, is leaving out full bowls of food for pets to graze. By doing this just ten extra kibbles of a typical dry cat food could add up to one pound of weight gain annually. When measuring the amount of food being given be sure to use an actual measuring cup not a coffee cup. This can lead to over feeding or under feeding if not sure of the amounts given. The graph on the side of the food bag is just a guideline. You want to be sure you are feeding the amount for the weight the pet should be at not the weight they are at unless it is their ideal weight. A couple of basic reasons that carry a role in pet obesity is children at home sharing their food, genetics (obese prone breeds), and not taking into account the calorie amount when it comes to treat giving. The last reason is possibly slow metabolism which could be genetic as mentioned earlier or it might be the result of a disease such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease.

There are some health problems that can occur from patients being obese/ overweight also. With arthritis the over-weight animal has extra unneeded stress on joints, including the discs of the vertebrae. This extra stress leads to the progression of joint degeneration and creates more pain. The problem is compounded as joint pain leads to poorer mobility, which in turn leads to greater obesity. Respiratory compromise is a large problem because the obese pet has a good inch or two of fat forming a constricting jacket around the chest. This makes the pet less able to take deep breaths as more work is required to move the respiratory muscles. Areas of the lung cannot fully inflate, so coughing results. The pet also overheats more easily. Many cases of tracheal collapse can be managed with only weight loss. Diabetes Mellitus is caused by extra body fat leading to insulin resistance in cats just as it does in humans. Hepatic Lipidosis is when an overweight cat goes off food or partially off food because of illness or psychological stress, body fat is mobilized to provide calories. Unfortunately, the cat’s liver was not designed to process a large amount of body fat. The liver becomes infiltrated with fat and then fails. A study of age-matched Labrador retrievers found that dogs kept on the slender side of normal lived an average of 2.5 years longer than their overweight counterparts. If a pet should develop a condition where a therapeutic diet is of great benefit, the pet that has been maintained primarily on a diet of table scraps may be unwilling to accept commercial pet food of any kind, much less a food modified to be beneficial for a specific disease process. Obesity poses an extra anesthetic risk because the drug dosing becomes less accurate. Furthermore, anesthesia is inherently suppressive to respiration and adding a constrictive jacket of fat only serves to make proper air exchange more challenging. Also, surgery in the abdomen is hampered by the slippery nature of the extra fat as well as difficulty visualizing all the normal structures through the copious fat deposit. Overweight cats can even develop skin problems from not being able to groom themselves properly.

With these four steps we can solve the problem with obese/ overweight pets. Step 1: Veterinarian Visit – you’ll want to make sure your pet doesn’t have any problems that might make lifestyle changes difficult or dangerous. Step 2: Carve some time out of your schedule to walk your dog or play with your cat 3 times a week at least. Be sure to work in some aerobic exercise, anything that gets a cat or dog running. For dogs, 20-30 minute brisk walking or play time is recommended. With cats, try several short bursts 5-15 minutes of activity chasing toys or a laser pointer. Hiding food will trigger a cat’s natural hunting instinct. Also Canine Rehabilitation is an option for those that have those busy schedules and need a personal trainer for their canine companion (will be discussed further in Part 3). Step 3: Calculate calories – check with your vet for proper amount, any food given extra from meal time adds in as well, including treats. Step 4: Measure meals – don’t just fill the bowl. Try small high-protein, low carbohydrate meals 2-3 times daily. Look for low-calorie, no sugar treats or substitute vegetables and fruits, such as sliced carrots and apples for dogs, or salmon flakes for cats.




“When Man’s Best Friend Is Obese”, by Gwendolyn Bounds, the Wall Street Journal, February 22, 2011