Monday, June 14, 2010

Live long and prosper, #2

So this could be a first, but I'm actually blogging according to some pre-arranged schedule. Two weeks in a row, keeping to the topic of what you can do to help keep your pet healthy. Last week, I talked about regular vaccinations for your pets. I know everyone read and enjoyed it but in case you need to review, just check it out here.

This week is a topic that is near and dear to my heart and one that will cost you nothing and save you a bundle in veterinary bills over your pet's life. I'm talking about nutrition and fitness, or more specifically, controlling your pet's weight. I touched on this topic briefly in the past, but obviously no one was listening to me because I keep seeing overweight pets. Well it's time to take the gloves off and get down and dirty. If you have an overweight pet then this is for you.

This is a fat cat. It's not cute, (OK, maybe a little), it's fat. There are a whole slew of diseases that fat cats get more often than normal weight cats. First thing that comes to mind is diabetes. Yes diabetes as in your cat has a high blood sugar, will get severe complications and need insulin injections for the rest of it's life diabetes. Fat cats also are more prone to arthritis. Studies have shown that a large percentage of older cats have arthritic changes on radiographs. These cats may suffer in silence. Once can only imagine how carrying around this extra weight will make things worse. Overweight cats also have a higher incidence of respiratory disease, heart disease, and certain tumors. If that's not gross enough, they also have a higher incidence of constipation. You haven't lived until you've had to sedate a cat to pull obstipated poop out of it's butt. DO NOT LET YOUR CAT GET FAT!!! Talk to your vet about appropriate diets, especially after spay or neuter surgery as this will alter your cat's metabolism, lowering their caloric needs. I'll not get into details here, but try to avoid high carbohydrate diets, and stick with a large proportion of canned food that is higher in protein and fat. Think Catkins (Atkins) diet, as I cross over some copyright law line and walk all over Dr. Atkins' name. If there is interest, we can look deeper into this topic in the future. Some blogger guru said that I should keep my posts at around 800 words and those who know me know how hard that is, so lets move on.

OK, dog owners, you didn't think I was going to let you off the hook did you? Dogs get fat too. Actually, it was a run of fat, crippled, could not get up off the floor, dogs that made me decide to write this whole series of articles. I actually had to put a 135 lb Golden retriever to sleep because it was so fat that it had Pickwickian syndrome. Follow the link, I didn't make it up and it is a great SAT vocabulary word for my younger readers. Fat dogs have degenerative joint disease, increased risk of torn ACL ligaments, hip dysplasia, heart disease, and a total lack of vitality. Is it worth giving into that begging at the dinner table? Just say no!

Now I just got back from a half Ironman triathlon this weekend. I don't just throw this out because I want you to know that I can complete the 70.3 miles, even in the brutal heat, (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, 13.1 mile run) but because I want you to know that I know what a battle this is (weight control that is). I spent a day getting passed by guys and gals that looked like this greyhound in the picture. We don't have to limit our pets diets until they look skeletal. A Labrador will never look like this guy, and the poor pugs will develop body image issues just looking at the photo. The point is, we all have an ideal body weight and we need to get there to stay healthy.

So, what's a pet owner to do? Feed a healthy diet. Feed to body condition, that is to say, if the amount you are feeding is leading to weight gain, cut it back. If your dog doesn't eat the food that you put down every time, in 3 seconds, but is maintaining weight, you do not have to top dress it with pan drippings (fat), or chicken breast, or hamburger, or anything. And exercise. This is tougher for cats than for dogs, but 20 minutes with a laser pointer every day will do wonders, if it doesn't make you crazy. And dogs need to walk, or run (breed dependent) every day, twice a day if possible. I go crazy when people tell me they exercise their dog every Saturday for 10 minutes if the weather is good. I look at them and realize that they are on the same type of exercise program. They should check with their doctors and veterianarians to make sure that they are starting out on a healthy, suitable program, then get off the couch people, and grab a leash, it's good for both of you. Take a spouse out with you and the dog, talk to each other meet your neighbors. (unless you live up at like 173rd street, then maybe you should leave your neighbors be and make sure you have a big dog and walk before dark.)

Some dogs (not most cats) like to swim. Great exercise. But I have to say, if they learn to ride a bike and pass me at my next triathlon, I'll have to find another athletic activity. My ego can only take so much. I can take being passed by the old men and women, but the first time a dog takes me down at an Ironman event, I'm done.

So, now I'm out of ideas for the next three posts on what you can do to keep your pet healthy. Give me some ideas. If I have any hope of keeping to this schedule, it will be up to you. This idea came for crazyboutdogs on twitter. Follow her at Follow me at and become a fan of our facebook page at Crawford Dog and Cat Hospital

Keith Niesenbaum, VMD

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