Are we loving our pet into obesity?

janieJanie, one of LMAH exam room assistants and a Hills certified pet advocate, talks about personal experience with pet obesity.

We adopted Prince when he was just four months old. He was the cutest black Labrador retriever I’ve ever laid eyes upon. He was smart too, already potty-trained and understood basic commands by the time we brought him home. Our family loved him and we took him on every family vacation as he was such a wonderful dog. His happy-go-lucky demeanor was contagious. We just loved having him around

Sometimes we showed our love by giving him extra treats. A little chicken here, some chips there. His favorite snack were the little crunchy cheeseballs, which we made sure to share plenty of those. Eventually Prince wouldn’t even bother to wait for a snack from our hands, he was a magician at making food disappear from counter tops and tables.

One day Prince was having diarrhea. He had gotten into a bag of Hershey’s kisses and we took him to see the veterinarian right away. At the age of five, we were told Prince was overweight and needed to lose a minimum of 10 pounds.

Our family led a pretty active lifestyle and we took Prince out for regular exercise, so we didn’t quite understand how he became overweight. You see, Prince didn’t look obese. But we changed his exercise habits and took him out for more runs. But we never changed his diet, and continued to feed him table food. After a few more years of this habit, Prince weighed in at 110 pounds. A few years later, Prince had been diagnosed with cancer. We placed him on palliative care and we were able to have him in our lives for a few more months. But we then had to make one of the most difficult decisions for any pet owner. The day we put him down was the worst day of our lives. He was only 11 years-old. I can’t say that Prince’s cancer was a direct result from his obesity, but I do know that it didn’t help his condition.

When I started working for Lone Mountain Animal Hospital, I was given the opportunity to become an advocate for Hill’s pet nutrition. I became certified in 2015 and I cannot express how much I wish I knew what I know now. The program enhanced my ability to understand, communicate, and advocate proper pet nutrition.

IS YOUR PET OVERWEIGHT?

Obesity effects over 50 percent of the American dog population. Obesity can lead to many different health issues such as arthritis, diabetes, bladder cancer, and heart disease.

A healthy pet will have a tucked abdomen, and you would be able to see his waist when viewed from above. The ribs should also be easily felt.
Your pet may be overweight if he has a sagging stomach, a broad flat back, and you can’t view the waist from above.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

Proper nutrition is essential to optimal health and enhances their quality of life. Depending on the age of your pet, we recommend bringing him in for a wellness exam once a year. The exam will check his heart, lungs, weight, skin, eyes, and give you the opportunity to ask us questions. I always thought Prince looked fine, it wasn’t until we brought him in for an emergency and the doctor weighed him, that we found out he was overweight.

Diets are also specialized for your pet. If you have a dog that is more relaxed and less active, they may not need a high calorie diet. This is why it is important to read the labels. Prince was being fed a high fat diet, which I was unaware of before I really started to take a look at the labels. If your dog has an active life style, skin allergies, or a senior, it is best to ask your veterinarian what is best for your pet.
Snacks and treats are fine to give your pet, they can be one of the best tools used during training. It’s okay to give him a treat or two here and there but it is important to take that into consideration when it comes to feeding time. If he was given a few snacks throughout the day, change his normal four cups a day to three cups. These small changes can really help keep your pet at a nice, healthy weight.

Keeping your pet healthy is a round the clock job. We all love our pets, and we show our affection in many different ways. For Prince, it was by giving him table snacks. Now I show my pets I love them by sharing a well-balanced diet.

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