Sunday, March 7, 2010

Killing them with kindness?

I am one of those people that hates to see fat pets. Unfortunately I get to see far to many of them at my veterinary job. (and tho the above dog isn't a client, sadly he looks just like a couple we do see) I was very happy to see an episode of Underdog to Wonderdog that addressed this issue last night. The dog they chose was being overlooked for adoption due to her being obese. And this was a sweet dog that loved to play! How sad and unfortunately all to common.

I think part of the problem is that people really have no idea how bad it is for their pets. "So my dog has a few extra pounds, what's the big deal?" Well it depends on how much extra weight they are carrying. Extra weight causes more stress on their joints which for some can be very debilitating. Our pets can't tell us that it hurts to walk. Extra weight can also cause breathing issues. If your dog gets winded from a short walk to the mailbox and back then that is a problem. Struggling to breathe is a very scary thing for a pet! And consider the fustration of not being able to scratch an itchy spot. We see dogs like that every week. In cats we see a lot of them simply unable to groom themselves which causes painful matting and even urine scalding. (just imagine not being able to wipe yourself and then sitting it in all day)

So I found this chart which might make it more helpful for people to understand how a little bit of weight can be more of a problem than they realize.

In toy breeds 1 pound of extra weight = 31 pounds on a human body
+2 lbs = 63
+3lbs = 94

In small breeds 2 lbs of extra weight = 13 lbs on a human body
+4 lbs = 26 lbs
+6 lbs = 40 lbs

In medium breeds 4 lbs of extra weight = 17 lbs on a human body
+6 lbs = 25 lbs
+ 8 lbs = 33 lbs

In large breeds 6 lbs of extra weight = 11 lbs on a human body
+8 = 14
+10 = 18 lbs

In giant breeds we are equal 10lbs = 10 lbs and so on.
Here is a chart that lets you see how to assess your dogs body condition:

In cats the weight comparison is based on breed body types too. However for the general domesticated shorthair the comparison is as follows: 4 pounds of extra weight = 36 lbs
+5 = 45lbs
+6 = 54 lbs

So you can see how just a few pounds for some of our companions can be a very large problem. In some cases I even consider it abusive. They can't feed themselves. WE are responsible for what goes into their mouths after all.
This doesn't mean you can't spoil your dog (or cat) with treats, just make them smaller. Consider the size of their stomach and adjust. Measure meals and keep track of their calorie intake. If you need to put your dog on a weight loss program start slow with the exercise. You don't want your dog collapsing from the stress. Teach your dog to play fetch. This is a FABULOUS game to play when you can't get outside for a walk! Or maybe you are feeling lazy and don't feel like taking the dog out. This gives you a back up plan for exercise on those days.
I know part of the problem is that we consider food equals love for our pets. They love to eat and we love to feed them. We need to stop killing them with our kindness. I mean after all, isn't it more kind to keep them comfortable and free from pain?? And let's not kid ourselves, extra weight on bodies shortens lifespans. For all of us.

(comparisons above are based on a 125lb woman's body)

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