Obesity In Pets, Vet Watch, Feb 17

One of the most common issues we have to deal with in vet practice (indirectly and directly) is pet obesity and its consequences. It’s always a delicate subject to approach without people getting defensive, and that’s understandable. However if your vet mentions your pet has (cough) ‘big bones’ or is a bit ‘short for his weight’, I can guarantee that they are only interested in helping prevent the myriad of problems that are related to a pet being a bit porky.

A large study by the University of Sydney Vet School and the RSPCA 10 years ago found the prevalence of overweight dogs (for instance) in Australia was about 41% and cats about 40%. Generally the incidence increased with age up to 10 years and then decreased (probably as obese dogs died earlier and the survivors were more likely to be relatively lean). Surprisingly, rural and semi-rural dogs were more at risk than urban and suburban dogs.

Some of the conclusions from the study were:

* Dogs were more likely to be overweight than cats.

* Animals at greater risk were female, desexed, older, sedentary, owned by people who are overweight and live in single pet homes.

* Obesity is associated with issues such as diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, liver disease, pancreatitis, heat stroke, cruciate disease, back injuries, respiratory disease and increased surgical risk, amongst others.

* Overweight animals have a shorter lifespan and compromised welfare.

* Obesity is the product of calorie intake exceeding energy requirements. i.e. pets eat too much (in spite of being fed ‘only once a day’ etc.) Only 5% of cases require medical treatment (like Thyroid deficiency or Cushings disease).

* The bond between owner and pet is crucial in determining calorie intake and body condition of the pet. Feeding pets is pleasurable for owners and pets, so this behaviour is a difficult habit to break.

At the Lennox Head Vet Clinic we see quite a few chubby pets, including some lizards, snakes and birds, as well as plenty of dogs and cats. The most common issues associated with obesity are mobility problems, especially arthritis, but also ruptured cruciate ligaments, paralysis, heart disease and heat stroke. Getting on top of these issues is difficult since pets love to eat and they have a range of cunning psychological tricks (and Jeddi mind control) to break down your resolve. Thing is, these tricks have been inadvertently reinforced by their owners. It’s a vicious circle. At least your pets can’t crack open the fridge or pop down to the shops for a pizza. Basically, its all up to the owners.

Anyhow, your friendly (and,in my case, less than sveltte) Vet can help with some of these weight loss hurdles. Give us a call and see what your options may be to help knock a few kg off your cuddly furry friend.

Cheers for now! Evan Kosack Lennox Head Vet Clinic

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