See this cute little dog? I don't want to see her. Nope. I don't. However, chances are, I probably will. At 2:00am... on a Saturday night... in my emergency room...for a completely preventable reason. Why? Because unless she is seen by her veterinarian at least once a year, there is a disease smoldering in her that will go undetected, until suddenly at 2:00am, it becomes blatantly obvious.
Now, which disease will bring her to me? Odds are, it will be one of these top 5 preventable diseases.
- Dental disease
- Internal parasites
- Genetic/breed-related conditions
- Reproductive disorders
- Over 50% of dogs and cats are overweight
- But 90% of pet owners think their pets are the ideal weight
- Until they are questioned more carefully and 40% of them aren't sure what an ideal weight looks like in their pet.
- This is the "Fat Gap" - the disconnect between how unhealthy a pet's weight is and how the owner perceives their pet's weight.
However, that's not necessarily your fault. Sometimes, we as veterinarians, avoid having the "Fat Pet" discussion, especially if the two-legged mammals in the room (ourselves & our staff included) could lose a few pounds.
Take look at the picture above or click here to read more about establishing a Body Condition Score for your pet. If your pet is overweight or obese (Score of 4 or 5), they are at risk for diseases that are eerily similar to those in people.
- Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart and Respiratory Disease
- Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injury
- Kidney Disease
- Many Forms of Cancer
- Decreased life expectancy (up to 2.5 years)
A pet can hide all of these diseases for quite a while.... until they can't. Until it's 2:00am and they can't walk/breathe/move/stop vomiting, etc. That's where your friendly, neighborhood emergency veterinarian enters the picture.
What Can You Do?
- If your pet hasn't been seen by a veterinarian in more than 6 months, make an appointment in the next two weeks for a physical exam.
- Besides establishing a healthy weight for your pet, your veterinarian will approach your pet holistically and give you recommendations tailored to your pet's lifestyle and risk factors.
- Biannual physical exams have been endorsed by leaders in the veterinary profession. Click on the logos below to learn more.
- Look on your pet's food bag, which will give your a food "dose" in cups. Start by feeding for the weight your pet should be. (i.e. if your dog is 70lbs but is overweight with a body condition score of 5, try feeding him for a 50lb dog).
- Measure your pet's food with a measuring cup (not a coffee can or a shovel or a tea cup or your hand).
- Feed healthy, low-fat, low salt snacks (that your physician or your mom would be proud of you for eating yourself.) Avoid grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, artificial sweeteners, avocados, onions, garlic and other "people food" listed here.
- Commit to exercising with your pet at least 10 minutes per day. You can monitor your dog's activity level using "The Whistle Collar".
Just like with humans, fat doesn't have to be forever. With dedication to the goal of a sleek, slender pet, your pet can live a longer, healthier life, by your side.
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