OBESITY IN PETS
Obesity in pets is as severe a problem (or possibly more so) in pets as it is in humans. With the advent of excellent commercially prepared pet foods, most dogs and cats have a more nearly perfectly balanced diet than do most people. The commercial foods are generally palatable and our pets like to eat just as much as people like to eat.
Pets are overweight because of willful over indulgence on the part of their owners, neglectful over indulgence on the part of their owners, or ignorant over indulgence on the part of their owners. Basically, owners subconsciously think that if they were their own pets, they would like more food and more snacks. Therefore, they give more food to their pets. Most of us (people) really like to eat. Most pets really like to eat. . Our pets are quick to catch on to the art of begging because they have learned that the “begging behavior” gets them what they want – more food. Now that the available commercial pet foods are so nearly perfectly balanced, so palatable, and so full of calories, there is absolutely no reason to feed table scraps --- except for the fact that owners believe that they are “earning their pet’s love” by doing so. Sixty years ago when commercial foods weren’t too good, supplementing our pet’s protein intake by the use of table scraps was good for the pets and a good way to get rid of table scraps. But, that is no longer true.
You cannot “buy your pet’s love” with food. Your pet either enjoys interaction with you or it does not. Your pet may pretend to “love” you by its begging antics. However, your pet may be playing you for a sucker. It gets the food and then goes to the person(s) it enjoys the most [which could be the person feeding it]. Over indulgence of your pet and over feeding your pet is not good husbandry. In most cases, your pet is “captive” and cannot get its own food by roaming, hunting, killing, scavenging, etc. Your pet eats what you feed it or allow it to eat.
If your pet is overweight, it is because its caloric intake is greater than its caloric outgo – too much food and too little exercise. The attitude of “but I feed her only a half a can twice daily” does not change the previous statement. There are very few disease that contribute to obesity and very few animals have any of these diseases. Hypothyroidism is the most important of the medical conditions that contributes to obesity. If your pet is obese and you are about to embark upon an effort to put your pet on a diet, hypothyroidism should be ruled out as it is very, very difficult to reduce the weight of a hypothyroid patient until the hypothyroidism is controlled.
Obesity contributes to a pet’s reluctance or inability to exercise – too fat to move. It is a major contributor to diabetes. It severely compromises the activity and movement of an arthritic pet. It stresses respiration. It contributes to and complicates cardiac problems. There is approximately one mile of capillaries in each pound of fat. If your pet is ten pounds overweight, its heart is having to push blood through an extra ten miles of capillaries all day every day. . It causes the owner to miss the enjoyment and satisfaction of living with an exuberant, healthy, active pet. In the United States today, for most people and most pets, it is simply easier to be obese than it is to fight obesity and do that which is necessary to maintain a healthy weight. At the Elizabethton Veterinary Clinic we realize this fact. During examinations we point out to owners that their pet is too fat and then leave it to the owner to decide if he/she really wants to try to reduce the pet’s weight. We are ready to advise and assist a willing owner. Too many times we hear the explanation that “I know that my pet is too fat; but, it is happy. I want it to be happy”. But, three years later when the pet is dying an early death because of complications of obesity, the same owners want to know “if anything can be done”. At this point, usually there is nothing that can b