Giving those extra tasty morsels to your pet may seem like an act of kindness, but is it?
Those extra pounds that seem to make your pet more snuggly may be more damaging to his or her health than you think. That extra weight can cause lasting damage to internal organs, bones and joints that can sometimes be irreversible. It has also been shown that the life expectancy of obese animals can be decreased by as much as 6 months to 2 years in some cases and can contribute to a whole host of diseases, especially in older animals.
If you go
The first annual Paw Valley Festival and 5K for pet owners and their dogs will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 9. The 5K fun-run/walk will begin in Watson Park and wind through Old West Lawrence. Cool down after the run at the Paw Valley Festival, featuring local vendors, food, drink, music and plenty of activities for all ages (and Fido too)! Call the Lawrence Humane Society at 843-6835 or go to the Lawrence Humane Society website, lawrencehumane.org, for information on how to register.
More obese pets are being seen at veterinary clinics every day, and according to many sources up to 45 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats can be considered overweight these days.
Fat cells were previously considered to be relatively benign, but recent studies have shown that they release inflammatory hormones that can cause tissue damage, which can lead to many problems and diseases including exercise intolerance, poor immune system, heat intolerance, bladder stones, respiratory difficulty, increased risk under anesthesia, diabetes, liver disease and high blood pressure.
For older animals with arthritis or other orthopedic problems, obesity can be devastating. Just getting up and down from a resting position can be excruciating and can eventually prevent some animals from rising and walking at all.
So how can you tell if your pet is overweight? The easiest way to do it is to stand back about 3 feet from your pet and look. You should not be able to see any ribs protruding from this distance, and if you do there is a chance that your pet may be underweight. Assuming your pet appears normal from a distance, when you run your fingers down your pet’s sides you should easily be able to feel the ribs without having to press inward. If you press inward and feel a fat pad underneath the skin then your pet may be carrying some extra weight.
The best thing you can do if you think your pet may be overweight is to consult your local full-service veterinarian about how to start on a weight-loss plan. Your vet may recommend blood work to rule out medical problems that can contribute to obesity, prescribe a special diet to help with safe weight loss and can help you monitor your weight loss success over time.
Just as with people, it is unhealthy to allow your pet to drop weight too fast and can lead to additional medical problems, so having your veterinarian help guide your weight-loss plan is very important. Under no circumstances should you ever try to achieve weight loss for your pet simply by reducing the amount of regular food your pet is receiving. This can lead to malnutrition over time.
Finally, it is important to get exercise. We all need exercise — even our furry friends — so this spring get out there and move around. It will make both you and your pet feel great!
— Jennifer Stone is the medical director and staff veterinarian at the Lawrence Humane Society. She has been a shelter veterinarian for more than a decade.