Guest post: number one pet health problem is obesity

Today, we have a guest post from Dr. Rex Riggs, owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is a veterinarian, and an Advisory Board member of Embrace Pet Insurance. Dr. Riggs writes about obesity issues from a small animal practioner's perspective.




Overweight farm dog If you were to ask me what is the number one pet health problem I see in my practice, I would have to say obesity.

It is estimated that 35% of adults pets are overweight and up to 50% of the ones over 7 years of age. I would personally say these are conservative figures. I see so many overweight animals.

I think one of the problems is that the owners really do not view their pets as obese. If you think about it, dogs and cats spend at least 70% of their time laying down and doing nothing. I feel it is the vet’s jobs to educate the client on the dangers of obesity and just how deleterious it is on the pet’s lives.

DID YOU KNOW: a lean animal can live up to 30% longer with much less problems than an overweight animal? Multiple studies have shown that lean pets have up to 50% less orthopedic problems. Hip dysplasia is greatly reduced. One injury that is much more prevalent in fatter dogs is cranial cruciate rupture, the ligament in the knee. If you have an overweight Golden Retriever, chances are you will be paying $2500 to $3500 to repair at least one of the cruciate ligaments in the near future.

Obesity causes so many problems in our pets. Diabetes, especially in cats, is directly related to obesity. If your animal gets diabetes, that means often you need to catch your cat/dog twice daily to give insulin shots and then do regular vet check ups to make sure everything is in good control. It is much easier to prevent.

So what can we do to prevent it?

Lula plump 1 The most important thing is to educate yourself on the foods you are feeding our pets. You need to understand that the pet food industry is estimated to be a $9 to 10 billion dollar industry - everyone is trying to get you to feed their foods, and lots of them.

TIP: Learn to read the labels and really see what is in the food and also the calorie content. Calories per cup can vary by 300% from food to food, so feeding two cups of one food compared to another can be a huge difference. Get in the habit of actually measuring out how much you give.

TIP: My suggestion is to feed ¾ of the amount that is recommended on the bag. If you feed the amount stated, it is a good bet you animal will become overweight.

Then there are the treats. Everyone wants to feed treats, and that is a problem. What might look to us to be a tiny portion is often a large % of the dog’s daily calorie need.

DID YOU KNOW: if you feed a small oatmeal cookie to a 20lb dog that is equivalent to us eating a cheeseburger? One ounce of cheddar cheese would be the same as us downing 2 and ½ hamburgers.

Commercial treats are no better.

DID YOU KNOW: one large original Busy Bone is 732 calories!!

Lyger side 1The manufactures try to make the treats to resemble foods we like, such as bacon, beef or even pork chops.

TIP: if a treat looks good enough for you to eat… don’t give it to your dog. Try to use healthy treats such as green beans, cauliflower, cucumbers or rice cakes.

You really can give your pet live a longer happier life by paying attention to what and how much you are feeding them.

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Dr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center with his wife Nancy, their two dogs Boo and Maggie, and two cats Franklin and Speeder. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and enjoys travel and photography.