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Obesity In Pets Part #1

Are you the guardian of a canine couch potato or a cat whose belly hits the floor as they waddle to their food bowl and back to their favorite sleeping place? Does it seem like no matter what food you try, you cannot get that extra weight off? It can be especially hard to stick to that recommended diet food when they look at you with those sorrowful eyes, perhaps a little drool leaking from their mouth. Or how about when your cat jumps like a ton of bricks onto your chest in the wee hours of morning, a gentle reminder that they are not happy with being “cut off”.

By far, obesity is the number one nutritional problem that small animal veterinarians see. Close to 30% of pets in North America are considered to be obese with many more that are just overweight. Pets actually should have a “waist” from both the top view and the side view. Square pets are not in good condition! Overweight pets have the same health risks as do overweight people for developing conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, liver problems, constipation and others.

If we use the example of an average Cocker Spaniel, a breed of dog that typically weighs 25 pounds, and put an extra 5 pounds on its frame, we have an obese dog. We are only talking 5 pounds over the ideal weight, but 5 of 25 equals 20%! This is equivalent to a person whose ideal weight is 150 pounds and they tip the scales at 180. Not good.

Why is this phenomenon increasingly happening in our pet population and what can you do about a pet that is just too fat? Well, overfeeding of inappropriate diets plays the biggest role. There are also certain medical conditions that predispose a pet to obesity, such as hypothyroidism (low thyroid), but these are nowhere near as common as people just giving in to those begging eyes and persistent meows. Lack of exercise is also a huge factor for obvious reasons, but even animals that exercise minimally can be kept slim by feeding less calories.

Whatever energy your pet consumes in the form of food, they must use. The excess will be stored for a rainy day, which for most never arrives. Fairly simple math. So what exactly is it that we are overfeeding, even when we are restricting their intake? Proteins? Fats? Carbohydrates? All 3 of these are required, but I am going to pick on carbohydrates.

Most people think that fat creates obesity. There are bad fats and good fats. Anyone who has read Udo Erasmus’ book “Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill” will already know that good fats themselves do not contribute much to obesity. Bad fats, on the other hand, cause harm by their toxic nature. It is the excess Carbohydrates consumed that are to blame for excess storage of fat. As Udo says, you either burn them or wear them!

This brings us to the pet foods that most people consider adequate- dry kibble foods. Dry foods are by their very nature based mainly on grain. Grains contain protein, but are mainly carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are fattening if not burned. Are you beginning to get the picture? If you look at the list of ingredients on the bag of pet food in your pantry, of the top 5 ingredients, there are usually 3 grain products. On a dry matter basis, which is taking the moisture content down to zero, grain probably makes up for well over 50% of the nutrition in most bags of dry food. Dogs and cats are not grain-eating ruminants, they are carnivores and should be fed according to that classification.

Stay tuned for an upcoming issue to discuss more about the carbohydrates in pet foods and problems they may be causing as well as some dietary solutions to help you slim down your pets.

Pawsitive Veterinarian Care is a Kelowna holistic vet. Contact us to learn more about holistic veteriinary care to slim down your pet.

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