Packing on the pounds is just as dangerous for your pet as it is for you. Being overweight or obese can lead to many of the same health problems whether you are a human, dog or cat. Luckily, with your help, your furry friend can easily lose that excess weight and enjoy a healthier, happier life with your help.
How Can I Tell if My Pet Weighs Too Much?
A thin layer of fat covers the ribs in fit dogs and cats. If your run your hand over your pet’s body and cannot feel the ribs, your pet may be overweight. Whether you have a dog or cat, you should be able to see a noticeable waist when you stand over your pet.
How Much Food Does My Pet Need?
It’s not always easy to determine how much food your pet needs, particularly if it behaves as if it’s starving between feedings. In most cases, your pet has just gotten into the habit of eating frequently and is not quite as hungry as it may seem. Not surprisingly, dogs and cats need drastically fewer calories than people. In fact, a 10-pound cat only needs 180 to 200 calories per day, while a 10-pound dog only needs 200 to 275 calories. Although these numbers apply to the average animal, some pets, such as kittens or puppies, may need a diet that’s slightly higher in calories. Older, less active pets may benefit from a diet that’s slighter lower in calories than the average.
What Health Problems Are Associated with Excess Weight in Pets?
Diabetes. Both dogs and cats can develop diabetes if they are overweight.
Arthritis. Excess pounds put considerable strain on your pet’s joints and can eventually cause arthritis. If your pet seems to be in pain and moves stiffly, arthritis may be the problem.
Hip Dysplasia. If your dog suffers from hip dysplasia, obesity can worsen this painful condition.
Trouble Breathing. Excess fat in the chest and abdomen may make it difficult for the lungs and diaphragm to expand properly, leading to difficulty breathing.
Reduced Energy and Stamina. Those extra pounds require your pet’s respiratory system, muscles and heart to work much harder, which can leave your furry friend feeling fatigued.
Coat Problems. Your pet may be more likely to suffer from skin conditions and infections if it is overweight. Skin and coat problems are more common in obese cats because they have trouble grooming themselves.
Increased Risk of Cancer. Adding a few pounds can make your chubby dog or cat more likely to develop cancer.
Decreased Lifespan. Pets that are overweight may have shorter lifespans.
What Can You Do About Your Pet’s Weight?
A visit to your pet’s veterinarian is the first step if you are concerned about your pet’s weight. The vet will rule out any diseases or conditions that could cause weight gain, such as thyroid disease; recommend the best pet food for weight loss; and provide advice on the amount of food your pet should receive based on its age, breed and any health conditions. A healthy diet, combined with plenty of exercise, will help your pet shed weight in no time.
Concerned that your pet may be overweight? We can help your furry friend lose those extra pounds. Call us and schedule an appointment today.
Raw diets offer an alternative to commercially prepared pet food and can be a good choice for some pets. Serving raw foods offer a variety of benefits, although the diet isn’t appropriate for every cat or dog.
Why Offer Raw Food?
Commercially available pet food often contains preservatives or chemicals that prevent the food from spoiling and enhance taste. Many cat and dog foods also can contain large amounts of fillers, such as corn syrup, soybean hulls, wheat mill run, animal byproducts and citrus hulls. Some fillers are used to ensure that the food is nutritionally balanced, but others are high in fat and are the equivalent of junk food for your pet.
Feeding your pet a raw food diet can also prevent illness caused by the contamination of food with non-food substances. In 2007, thousands of pets died when melamine, a plastic-based material, was added to pet food ingredients produced in China.
When you choose a raw food diet, you know that every bite your pet eats is completely natural. Several companies sell frozen raw foods for pets, or you can create your own raw food menus using a pet food cookbook.
Advantages of a Raw Diet
When you feed your cat or dog a raw food diet, you may notice a difference in:
- Stools. When pets are fed a raw diet, stools are smaller, drier and less smelly.
- Allergies. Allergy symptoms disappear when your pet no longer ingests allergens found in pet food.
- Coat. After eating raw foods exclusively for a few months, you may notice that your pet has a shinier coat and healthier skin.
- Energy. Some fillers can make your pet feel lethargic. Energy levels tend to rise when dogs and cats are fed raw food diets.
- Teeth. Bone-in meats help pets keep their teeth clean
What Foods Are Included in Raw Diets?
Raw food diets may include the following ingredients:
- Muscle meat, such as beef, pork, chicken, venison, and turkey
- Whole or ground bones
- Kidneys, livers, and other organ meats
- Spinach, broccoli, and other vegetables
- Dairy products
- Fruit, such as bananas, apples, and papaya
- Oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, and other grains and starchy vegetables
- Supplements to ensure that your pet receives any necessary nutrients not provided in the raw food diet
Dos and Don’ts of Feeding a Raw Food Diet
Keep these tips in mind when you begin feeding your pet a raw food diet.
If your pet is used to eating commercially prepared food, making a sudden switch to a raw food diet can cause diarrhea. Offer only small amounts of raw foods at first to allow your pet’s digestive system adequate time to adjust to the change.
Talk to Your Veterinarian If Your Pet Has a Health Problem
Don’t begin a raw food diet without speaking to your veterinarian first if your pet has diabetes, kidney failure, or another health problem. Although the diet is usually a good choice for healthy animals, it can cause problems for pets that suffer from chronic illnesses.
Avoid Road Kill
Road kill can quickly become rancid and may sicken your pet. Avoid feeding it to your pet, and don’t feed any meat that looks or smells bad.
Make Cleanliness a Priority
Wash your hands with soap and water after handling raw foods and thoroughly disinfect knives, dishes and cutting boards with a solution of bleach and water. Failing to disinfect utensils and dishes used to prepare raw foods can put your family at risk of becoming ill if the meat contains bacteria or other food-borne pathogens.
Are Raw Food Diets Appropriate for All Pets?
Although raw food diets can improve your pet’s health, they may not be a good idea in some cases. Since these diets are very high in protein, they are not an appropriate choice if your pet has liver or kidney failure. Pets that have compromised immune systems or are undergoing chemotherapy also should not eat raw diets. If they happen to eat food that contains salmonella or the E. coli bacteria, it may be much harder for them to recover from an illness due to their weakened immune systems.
A raw food diet is not generally recommended for puppies and kittens, as it’s more difficult to ensure that the diet contains enough calcium and another minerals and nutrients needed for normal growth and development.
Would you like to feed your pet a raw food diet but are not sure if it’s the best choice? We will be glad to help you weigh the pros and cons. Call us to schedule a convenient appointment.
WebMD: Raw Dog Food: Dietary Concerns, Benefits and Risks
U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Get the Facts! Raw Pet Food Diets Can Be Dangerous to You and Your Pet, 07/13/16
Healthy Pets: Common Feeding Mistakes That Can Harm Your Pet, 04/15/13
Modern Dog: The Raw Debate
Read the back of a pet food bag and you will see a long lists of ingredients that features a variety of preservatives and fillers. While these ingredients may keep the food fresh, they are not always good for your pet. Luckily, you will find plenty of dog and cat food recipes on the Internet that will help you ensure that your pet’s meals are healthy and nutritious. Before you turn on the stove and create a gourmet meal for your pet, keep these things in mind.
A Homemade Diet Can Help Improve Your Pet’s Health
Homemade diets may be helpful if your pet suffers from gastrointestinal problems, allergies, skin conditions, and urinary tract problems. Although many manufacturers make food specifically formulated for pets with medical conditions, some cats and dogs don’t like the taste of these products. Before you change your pet’s diet, check with your veterinarian first to ensure that the proposed diet is safe your cat or dog.
Homemade Meals Can Tempt Reluctant Eaters
Old or ill animals may turn their noses up at the commercially prepared foods they have always enjoyed in the past. Pet owners often spend considerable time and money trying new brands and pleading with their furry friends to give a new type of food a try. Once pets decide that they will not eat particular foods, it’s hard to change their minds. Offering home-cooked meals, such as chicken and rice, may convince them to eat again.
Human Food Doesn’t Always Contain All of the Nutrients Your Pets Need
If you are not careful, you could actually hurt your pet’s health, rather than improve it, when you prepare homemade meals. Commercial pet foods contain added nutrients that pets need to stay healthy, such as zinc, iron, and calcium. Home-cooked meals may not contain these nutrients or may not feature enough of them. If your pet’s diet is lacking, the health consequences can be severe. Anemia, broken bones, and tooth loss are common in animals that do not receive needed nutrients. Adding supplements to the foods you prepare can prevent these conditions.
Cats need a diet high in taurine, an amino acid that keeps their heart, retinas, nervous system, gallbladder, muscle, and bones healthy. Although taurine is found naturally in shellfish, sardines, salmon, poultry dark meat, and eggs, cooking decreases the amount of the amino acid in these foods. Adding a taurine supplement to your cat’s meals will help ensure that your pet receives the full benefit of this important nutrient.
Think Carefully Before Feeding Your Pet a Raw Diet
Animals eat raw food in the wild, so why not offer them a raw diet? Unfortunately, raw or undercooked meat can be contaminated with salmonella, E. coli, listeria, camployobacter, and other bacteria and pathogens that can sicken your pet.
The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends avoiding a raw food diet. In fact, the association released a statement advising pet owners that it discourages feeding cats and dogs any animal-source protein that has not first been cooked or pasteurized to destroy pathogenic organisms. Feeding your pet raw meat from road kill or animals that have been hunted also isn’t recommended.
Dos and Don’ts of Cooking for Pets
Before you turn on the oven, take a look at these tips for preparing meals for your pet.
Ask Your Veterinarian to Review Your Recipes. Share recipes with your veterinarian to ensure that they contain the recommended proteins, nutrients and calories. If your veterinarian is concerned that the diet is not appropriate for your pet, he or she may refer you to a pet nutritionist who can help you choose tasty, healthy recipes.
Do Not Make Changes to Recipes. It’s very important to follow dog and cat food recipes exactly, even if they do not sound appealing to you. If you substitute ingredients, your pet may not get all of the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.
Reduce Meal Preparation Time. After a long day at work, you may not feel like making dinner. While a takeout pizza may satisfy the humans in your family, you will still have to cook for your pet. Reduce the time you spend on food preparation by conducting a marathon cooking session during the weekend. Freeze the meals and reheat them during the week to save time.
Avoid Foods That Can Make Your Pet Sick. Foods that you enjoy can be toxic to pets. Don’t feed your furry friends onions, garlic, chocolate, raisins, macadamia nuts, walnuts, or avocados.
The New York Times: A Sniff of Home Cooking for Dogs and Cats, 1/18/11
PetFinder: Home-Cooked Dog Food Diets
PetMD: Another Danger of Homemade Dog Food, 9/25/15
AVMA: Raw or Undercooked Animal-Source Protein in Cat and Dog Diets
WebMD: Make Homemade Dog Food
Fiber is important because it helps dogs feel full, supports natural, healthy digestion and aids in moving material through their digestive tract. Is there fiber in your pet’s food bowl with each meal? Does your pet need fiber, or more fiber? Grains like wheat, barley, corn and rice contribute small amounts of fiber to pet foods. Pets require adequate amounts of fiber in their foods.
What Should I Feed My Dog by veterinarian Ron Hines, discusses the importance of supplying fiber for your pet during feeding. “The diet of normal adult dogs should contain between 2.5 and 4.5 percent fiber. However, the fiber content of some “diet” dog foods is between nine and 10 percent. This may allow the dog to feel full without consuming too many calories for effective weight control. Diets high in fiber also help in the management of blood sugar (hyperglycemia) and the prevention of such disorders as intestinal diverticulosis and diabetes. Too much fiber in your pet’s diet can interfere with the digestion of other important nutrients in the food and result in loose stools, frequent defecation, and reduced palatability of the dog food.”
As a whole, dogs eat less frequently than cats and they also usually eat larger meals. Feeding adult dogs twice or once daily can be alright, but remember that pups require feeding often. Dogs in homes with free-feeding practices should be fine if the dog is not gaining weight. Ask your veterinarian at each visit about your free-feeding pet’s weight to be sure it’s on track, healthy and providing them the best health benefits. “What and when you feed your dog early in life will shape its preferences when it is older. This applies to time of day, odor, texture, taste and meal temperature,” advises Dr. Hines.
James Glover’s Sources of Dietary Fiber for Dogs suggests that fiber be introduced gradually to avoid any tummy troubles that could result from adding large quantities of bulk quickly. He suggests replacing some your current regular food with carrot, pear, banana, non-spicy pepper or high-quality bran. Glover notes that owners must be alert to the fact that everyday foods like onions, raisins, fruit pith and grapes can be “highly toxic” to dogs.
As Dr. Hines suggests, avoid adding too much fiber too fast. You may add in a one-inch chopped slice of apple or pear, cooked sweet potato, cooked yam or baked turnip to the food bowl, after several such meals, add in a chopped two-inch slice of the above. Remember that you can mix and match the fiber sources you feed your pet after its tummy has become accustomed to receiving more fiber each day.
Keep in mind that you don’t want your pet to experience loose bowel movements, watery stool or diarrhea. What you do want is for the stool to be firm, moist and have good shape. When your dog has the proper amount of fiber, you’ll notice that the pooch doesn’t strain while leaving a “present” in your backyard. Bowel evacuation will be natural, pleasant and smooth for your pet. It is critical that you always have fresh water available in multiple locations for your dog. Water helps route nutrients through a dog’s body, push out toxins and release substances that are no longer needed by your dog’s body.
Veterinarian Jan Becker suggests that dog and cat owners be aware of the benefits of both soluble and insoluble fiber in their pet’s food diet. Soluble fiber, she suggests, is “mainly for bulk and helps push through such digested particles as hair” ingested during animal grooming. Soluble fiber can increase stool bulk and contributes to preventing that unhappy experience of constipation. Insoluble fiber contributes these – and more. The insoluble fiber you provide for your pet helps maintain the proper balance of natural, healthy bacteria in the digestive tract.
Food allergies occasionally occur in dogs and cats. They usually manifest themselves as itchy skin, ear infections, chronic vomiting, or diarrhea. If you suspect that your pet may have a food allergy, you can investigate by performing a food trial. There are three rules for a food trial:
1. Pick a new food that is different from any food fed in the past. This does not mean to just choose a different brand. You need to check the fine print on the ingredient list on each food label and pick a new food that is totally different in ingredients. Often the large label on the front of the bag mentions only two ingredients but in reality the food has many ingredients.
For animals fed many foods in the past, it may be difficult to find an appropriate food in the pet food store. There are new foods with “exotic” ingredients made for pets with allergies that are now available through veterinarians. For example, Venison and Potato, Rabbit and Potato, Duck and Potato, and Kangaroo and Oats are available for dogs. Duck and Green Pea, Rabbit and Green Pea, and Venison and Green Pea are available for cats. Preferably, the new food should have just one protein and one carbohydrate source.
2. You should feed the new food for 12 weeks to dogs and 8 weeks to cats before you decide whether it works or not.
3. You cannot feed another food, treats, table scraps, chewable vitamins or chewable Heartworm preventative. Dogs cannot have rawhide chew toys, pig’s ears, cow hooves, etc. Heartworm prevention during this time can be provided by a non-chewable tablet or the topical liquid.
Once the trial period is over and if there was a positive response, you can determine the ingredient(s) that caused the allergy by adding, one at a time, the previously fed ingredients to the trial food for 14 days per ingredient. The pet should show an allergic response in this time period if that ingredient is an allergen.
Sugarless Gum Toxic to Dogs
Products safe for people are not necessarily safe for pets. For example, Xylitol is used as a sugar substitute in food products; it can be found in sugar-free candy, gum, and other products. In people, Xylitol has no effect on blood insulin or glucose levels, but in dogs, Xylitol causes a strong, rapid insulin release that causes the blood glucose to go decrease dramatically. This hypoglycemia causes the dog to be weak, wobbly, collapse, or even seizures. This effect can occur within 20-60 minutes of eating the gum or candy.
Another adverse effect of Xylitol is liver problems, even liver failure. This occurs hours to a couple of days after ingestion. This can occur without signs of earlier hypoglycemia. Liver problems can have symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, poor appetite, and blood clotting problems.
Small amounts of Xylitol can have these effects. Only one or two pieces of sugarless gum can be toxic to a twenty-pound dog. Recently, veterinarians discovered that some liquid human medicines are sweetened with Xylitol. If you get a prescription liquid medicine from a human pharmacy, be sure to confirm with the pharmacist that it doesn’t contain Xylitol.
Excess weight is a serious health problem for dogs and cats. In the U.S., nearly 50% of middle-aged pets are overweight. The two main causes of obesity are too much food and too little exercise. Other contributing factors can be due to hormonal influences, certain genetic factors, and other disease processes.
If you pet is carrying extra weight, it can:
1. Increase the risk of heart disease by forcing the heart to work harder.
2. Increase the risk of arthritis as extra weight can stress the joints, cause joint pain, and make it harder for your pet to move around comfortably.
3. Obesity can cause breathing problems, skin and hair coat problems.
4. Obesity frequently leads to diabetes, especially in cats.
All of these problems can make your pet uncomfortable and limit the way they interact with you and other family members.Treatment is to rule out and treat any medical causes, such as hypothyroidism. Reducing caloric intake and increasing exercise can help your pet successfully lose weight. Lifestyle changes and a weight loss program are essential. Your veterinarian can help determine if your pet is too heavy and provide guidelines for achieving their ideal weight. Slentrol is an oral weight loss drug for obese dogs that are not able to lose weight by other means.
Pets afflicted with heart failure or high blood pressure should not be fed salty foods, as they cause fluid to be retained in the body and make it harder for the heart to work. They also can lead to fluid developing in the lungs (pulmonary edema). Most commercial dog foods have a decent level of sodium, although some have high levels, such as Hill’s S/D. Pets that have non-life-threatening heart problems don’t necessarily need to be restricted on sodium, but you still should keep an eye on whether the food you’re feeding your pet has overly-high sodium levels. Once a pet has had an episode of congestive heart failure or has hypertension, the diet should be restricted in sodium.
Most commercial dog foods have a sodium content of 1.0 gram per 1000 KCal. This description is just a way to measure the relative sodium content without having to calculate whether it is a canned or dry food. 1.0 gram is actually ten times the amount really needed by pets. As it turns out, dogs like salty foods just like we do!!
Often veterinarians will recommend a renal diet (one made for kidney problems) for heart patients as these diets are restricted in sodium (0.3 gram per KCal) and heart patients usually become kidney patients eventually. There is a diet made by Hill’s specifically for heart patients (H/D) that has 0.23 gram of sodium per KCal, and in some cases veterinary cardiologists may recommend this.
You should review the label of the pet food you are feeding to see if the percentage of sodium is listed. Usually it is not on the label, as it is not required to be listed, but you can contact the manufacturer to ask for the sodium content. Remember, to compare, the sodium content should be given in grams per KCal.
In order to administer medications, many people use Pill PocketsTM made by GreeniesTM. These are tasty pillowcase-shaped products used to hide pills for dogs or cats. The Canine Pill PocketsTM are high in sodium, so it is better to use the Feline Pill PocketsTM for both dogs and cats.
With advances in veterinary medicine, many heart patients can live happily and without symptoms for years. It is up to you to make sure their diet is a good one!!