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The skinny on fat
The skinny on fat
Well its winter again in Cleveland, which means bring out the snow gear and start working on that New Year's Resolution. Weather it is (pun intended) raining, snowing, hailing, or just plain cold, we cannot exercise our dogs as much as we should. Yet, keeping our pets fit and trim is just as important for them as it is for us: generating risks such as Diabetes mellitus, orthopedic issues, and compromised breathing. So when the weather turns ugly and exercise is inconsistent, we must rely on controlling the other factors that contribute to body weight. Here's the skinny:
Studies show pets that are overweight are more likely to develop insulin resistance. When you are overweight, you have excess sugar in your blood due to eating too much and not exercising enough to use it all. So, you body starts "closing down the doors" which allow glucose into the cells so that the cells are not "over fed". However, as the doors are closed, the blood sugar can no longer gain access into the cells to feed them and "insulin resistance" develops. This is why a diabetic patient has HIGH blood sugar: it's stuck! Unfortunately for our pets this usually means having to give an insulin injection twice daily for the rest of its life in order to over-ride the closed doors and utilize the blood sugar. Managing Diabetes Mellitus can be stressful on both the pet and the pet parents.
Another problem our pets can develop is orthopedic issues such as: premature arthritis, torn cruciate ligaments, torn patellar ligaments and/or slipping a disc in the spine. Just like a person, when a dog or cat is carrying extra weight they are more likely to develop early onset arthritis in any joint. Due to the increased strain on the knees, larger breed dogs are more susceptible to tearing their cruciate ligament (most people know this as the ACL). In smaller breeds, the increased strain can rupture their patella ligaments causing the kneecap to pop in and out of place causing pain and inflammation. Lastly, just as people can injure the intervertebral discs in their backs, our pets can too. Certainly the "long backed" dogs such as daschunds and corgis are more infamous for "slipped disk", but any breed can suffer this type of injury. All of these orthopedic issues are painful and can lead to reliance on pain medications for relief and for some, possibly even a major orthopedic surgery to try and correct the problem.
Small breed dogs carrying extra weight are more prone to a complication called tracheal collapse. The trachea, or windpipe, in our dogs and cats is made up of many "U" shaped cartilage rings with a thin strip of tissue sitting across the top. With extra fat sitting atop this tissue, the membrane starts to collapse in causing not only a terrible sounding goose-honk cough, but decreased air intake which causes breathing issues and stress on our pet. In severe cases, the trachea can completely collapse and the pet could require a risky emergency surgery.
Now that we know some of the possible complications of the overweight pet, the real questions are "is my pet overweight" and if so "what should I do". Make an appointment with a veterinarian and discuss your pet's ideal figure/weight and formulate a healthy weight loss plan. Simple ways to start a weight loss plan include decreasing the number and size of treats and eliminating handouts from the dinner table. Trust me, I know it can be difficult to resist giving your fur kid a bite from the dinner plate when she gives those sweet puppy dog eyes, but think about how those bites add up to a potential health risk! Instead, grab a healthy treat for her such as pieces of a baby carrot or fresh green beans. If she continues to give the stare, grab her leash and take her for a nice long walk. Don't underestimate the value of a scratch in a favorite place, a sincere word of praise or a romp with a favorite toy. Interactions such as walking or playing games with our pets actually form a stronger emotional bond than those made through their bellies.
Maybe your pet is a cat that needs to lose a little weight. If so, try purchasing a cat tree to increase vertical climbing space; grab the feather on a stick and have the cat run around the house several times a day. Provide measured and regulated meals rather than leaving a full bowl of food for Kitty to eat all day and night. However, as stated before, it is best to discuss a weight loss plan with the veterinarian as one plan does not fit all.
Let's gain a little perspective:
A dog that should weigh X# only needs Y kcal/day to maintain that weight:
5# dog needs 138 kcal/day
10# dog needs 206 kcal/day
20# dog needs 342 kcal/day
40# dog needs 615 kcal/day
60# dog needs 888 kcal/day
Therefore, if we give a 5# yorkie a slice of American cheese, 1 milk bone, and its normal 1/3 cup of food for the day, he/she just consumed 225 kcal for that day. While the volume of food doesn't seem like a lot to us, it is 1.6 times the number of kcal he/she should consume!
So help your pets shed that extra weight; start making healthy choices and don't forget to talk to a veterinarian. Make it a New Year's resolution to get your fur kids back into good shape to give them a long and healthy life with your family.