Animal Hospital
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Hours of Operation:

Monday: 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Tuesday: 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Wednesday: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Thursday: 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Friday: 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Saturday: 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Sunday: 9:00 a.m-12 p.m.

The battle of the bulge: an update on obesity in our pets

Spring is here and although I know it has been an unusually warm winter, I put on a few extra pounds during the winter months. Fighting obesity is a year-round battle in people and pets. We know that obesity can lead to all sorts of diseases that shorten the lifespan of our pets. The questions that arise include: Are there factors predisposing pets to obesity? If so, what are they?

• Breeds: Studies have shown that certain canine breeds such as Cairn Terriers, West Highland Terriers, Scottish Terriers, Shetland Sheepdogs, Basset Hounds, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Dachshunds, Beagles, Cocker Spaniels and Labrador Retrievers all are predisposed to obesity.

Conversely, site hounds (Greyhounds, Italian Greyhounds, Whippets and Afghan Hounds, etc.) seem to be more resistant to obesity. Feline at-risk breeds include the domestic shorthair, domestic medium hair, domestic longhair and Manx breeds were predisposed to obesity. Unfortunately, it is estimated that regardless of breed, approximately 25 percent of all cats owned in the United States are obese.

• Spay/Neuter: In both cats and dogs, the loss of certain hormones associated with the reproductive system will affect metabolism. Through studies it is estimated that the calorie requirements drop by about 25 percent after a spay or neuter. Ironically, all of the feeding recommendations on the cans and bags of dog and cat food are by an organization called AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials). The AAFCO recommendations are based on studies of intact dogs and cats (those that were never spayed or neutered).

I could see that if someone follows those recommendations they would be going to the store more often to buy more food. Unfortunately, that also means that we are overfeeding our pets. Therefore, the recommendation at our clinic is to decrease the amount of food by approximately 25 percent (from what is recommended on the packaging) after your dog or cat is spayed or neutered.

• Age: As dogs and cats age their calorie requirements drop. In your average-sized dog, it is estimated that their overall calories drop by approximately 20 percent past age seven. There are some dogs and cats that are more active and may need more calories, but this is something to be taken on a case-by-case basis (see previous article on body conditioning score).

• Nutrition: This one is a tough one to tackle because we are living in some uncertain financial times and everyone is doing belt tightening, but studies have found that obese pets are more likely fed a cheaper brand pet food. These cheaper brands to tend to use lower quality proteins and carbohydrates that predispose the animals to obesity.

• Exercise/Environment: This one is kind of self-explanatory. Dogs and cats that are more active or are encouraged to exercise have less problems with obesity.

I hope this information helps us to win the battle on obesity and improve the quality of life for our pets.

Dr. Kearns has been in practice for 14 years.

Author: 
Matthew Kearns, 2012