It happens every year in veterinary exam rooms across the country. Time for the annual checkup and the vet looks at you and your pet and says: “looks like its been a long winter….her weight is up a bit” to which you reply “she always gains a bit in the winter and then loses it the summer”. But is this the best for your four legged friend? We now know that adipose tissue (a nice way of saying “fat”) is one of the most pro-inflammatory tissues in the body. What does this mean? Having extra fat is like having a splinter under your skin. With a splinter, your body is in a constant state of trying to reject something that doesn’t belong. The inflammation afftects all the skin in the area, not just where the splinter is. The same is true with fat throughout the body. It promotes extra inflammation everywhere. Inflammation is at the root of many diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, pancreatitis, heart disease and dermatitis. So having an overweight pet is a direct contributiing cause to disease. In other words, the risk of serious illness increases signficantly if your pet is overweight.
There are many causes for the overweight and obese status of nearly 70% of all the pets in the US. Some of it, of course, is our fault (the family)…… too many snacks, too little exercise and the desire to satisfy our best friends in a simple way. But there is plenty of responsibility to go around. Veterinarians who don’t make nutritional discussions a regular part of a visit, the pet food industry that manufactures and markets higher and higher caloric diets without cautioning owners about obesity, and the advertising industry who loves using our canine and feline friends to sell snacks that are “empty” calories (pretty entertaining ads, though…I must admit) are all to blame. Just yesterday while discussinig the state of arthritis in both elbows and knees of a young, overweight (4 year old) large breed dog, the owner ensured they were not feeding more than the suggested amount on the package with the enclosed measuring cup. In checking the dog’s actual nutritional needs, the package was 20% high on the recommendation. In addition, when I had the owner compare the “cup” to an actual dry weight measuring cup the enclosed cup was a cup and a quarter, not just one cup. So in reality, the pet was receiving nearly twice the claories required to maintain his weight. As a result, his life will be greatly impacted by these shortcomings.
So as the weather continues to turn toward summer, it is a good time to take a look at your dog and cat’s nutritional status. There is no time like the present to reexamine his or her diet and needs. Please let us know if we can be of assistance.