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Norwich Bulletin - 1/13/2008

Your Pet's Weight

The holidays are over and we have all put on a few extra pounds; but we are not the only ones that have overindulged during the season. We have shared our celebrations with our best friends, canine and feline, and let them overeat right alongside of us. So we have increased not only our own chances of health complications due to extra weight gain, but also that of our pets.

The problem that face both humans and animals is that there is a very large amount of calorie-dense foods available and very little opportunity for exercise. No-one needs to go out and hunt for their food anymore. Ive never hunted for my dinner and my cats have never had to catch a mouse in order to eat, either.

I think owners unknowingly over-feed their cats and dogs because commercial foods are more nutritious and we dont actually realize that they have so many more calories, per can, or cup, than they used to. So, while the higher calorie and fat content improves coat sheen, appetite Appeal and reduces litterbox clean up, it is bad for the portion control!

While obesity is very dangerous to the health of humans, it is not quite as dangerous to the well-being of our cats and dogs. But there are three major health concerns that are associated with our overweight pets: Lameness, diabetes and hair coat diseases but only the most severely overweight animals tend to develop such conditions.

There are other health problems that need to be watched though; obesity affects the liver, heart and joints. Some studies show that it can also increase the risk for urinary tract infections, cancer and mammary tumors, although more research is needed for absolute conclusions. It is also true that fat cats and dogs are more likely to have respiratory problems and arthritis.

Checking your pet's weight is a good way to keep up with any sudden changes either up or down, or to just monitor that healthy weights are kept.

Now if your cat already looks like Garfield, you may want to consider a diet (this also pertains to pudgy pooches). First step, of course, is to consult your vet before starting your pet on any type of weight loss or exercise program.

No crash diets for pets, please. This is potentially dangerous, especially for cats, as dramatic weight loss can trigger lepatic lipidosis, which is potentially fatal. Animals, just like humans, need to drop weight slowly. They should not lose more than one to two percent of their body weight per week.

Actually, losing weight for pets should be more of a "weight watchers" program. Not so much a diet, but a change in lifestyle for both owner and furry friends. Of course, weight loss is a complete waste of time if old habits are not changed.

So here comes the word all of us overweight people hate to hear EXERCISE! Yes, exercise is very important for those indoor only fat cats and couch potato dogs. Daily exercise interactional toys for both cat or dog is essential. Toys that require chasing, fetching, jumping, etc. are the key to a successful weight loss program. That, and of course, watching what you feed. Good premium foods like Royal Canin or Wellness is suggested, but follow the directions for portion control.

So, if your cat or dog has a sagging abdomen, large deposits of fat over their chest, abdomen and pelvis, and the only think you can feel is general flesh, chances are you have an obese pet and need to rethink your feeding habits.

And it is not easy our natural tendency is to eat well and feed our pets well. We are showing our love for them, or at least we think we are. The truth is that we all need to work on our health and weight this year.

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