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


My Beginning


My name is Candace Lafond and I have worked at Foster Animal Hospital for over 7 years. When i began at Foster Animal hospital I was in school pursuing my Veterinary Assistant Degree. I started out as an assistant in the boarding facility feeding, watering, and loving on the cats and dogs. As time went on I was checking clients in and out and giving medications to the dogs and cats. I have always loved animals so much and wanted to work with them.


Some time later I was training on the exam room hallway with the doctors to be an EXRA  (Exam Room Assistant). During this time I was still in school but pursuing my Veterinary Technician Associate’s Degree. Being an EXRA I would restrain the patients for the doctors to perform their exams and for the technicians to perform treatments. I learned how to draw and prepare vaccines as well as administer the vaccines. There were lots of medications I became familiar with while being an EXRA.

I was then trained in the pharmacy department to learn how to fill medications, make compounds and call in prescriptions to pharmacies. You always wanted to be sure and check the bottle of medication with the label to make sure type and milligram was identical. There were liquid, tablet, capsule, chews, and topical medications. Some kinds of medications had the same name but 2 different forms like liquid and tablet. Some foods are considered prescription medications also.


The next step in my future was learning being a laboratory associate. This is where I learned to run the blood machines, ultrasound, and x-ray. I also was trained on how to draw blood from cats and dogs, place catheters, and monitor hospitalized patients. Dealing with emergencies was also important to save a life in this department. Emergencies would include seizures, trauma of some sort, toxicities,  and respiratory difficulty.

Being a surgery associate was what was next on my agenda. This included preparing for surgeries, placing catheters, placing endotracheal tubes, and monitoring anesthesia. There are many surges that can take place from normal spay and neuters to eye enucleation and cruciate ligament surgeries. When monitoring the patient under anesthesia you are watching the HR (heart rate), RR  (respiratory rate), Oxygen level, BP (blood pressure), and body temperature. Recover of the surgery patient is very important as well to be sure the patient is alert in order to breath and swallow on their on before the endotracheal tube is removed. By this point in my time at Foster Animal Hospital I was thinking about what my goals were and thought it would be great to do some type of rehabilitation with animals. Whether it be exotics or domestics didn’t matter.


I was very excited because in 2013 I got the opportunity to pursue a certification as an assistant in Canine rehabilitation. Dr. Plott and Dr. Foster are both CCRTS  (Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapists). I began my Introduction course through the Canine Rehabilitation Institute in November 2013. I had an exam to take at the end of each course and then a 40 hour internship to complete. The other 2 courses I had to complete for my certification was the Canine Sports Medicine and Canine Rehabilitation Assistant. It was so much fun learning such a wonderful option to treat dogs with lameness whether it be acute or a chronic condition. I also got to meet other veterinarians, technicians, and physical therapists. I have been performing Canine Rehabilitation full time at Foster Animal Hospital known as Paws In Motion Canine Rehabilitation Center since Fall 2014.