Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's resolution: slim down that fat cat or dog

(ARA) - To his owners, Moby, a 4-year-old Australian Shepherd, was a very healthy, spry dog, so when his veterinarian told them that beneath his thick, reddish-brown coat he had a weight problem, they were a bit shocked.

Apparently, all that baby food licked off the floor, and the lack of activity that came with the two toddlers who had recently joined the family, added about 10 extra pounds on a normally 65-pound dog. The good news is the veterinarian was able to put Moby on a program of diet and exercise, and he was back in perfect shape within a year.

Studies show that pet obesity is an epidemic in this country. According to a 2005 study, approximately 35 percent of American dogs and cats are obese or overweight, and some veterinarians report that they see even higher percentages now.

"I would say that probably more than 50 percent of the animals that we see are overweight," says Dr. Larry R. Corry, a companion animal practitioner in Georgia and president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). "We say that people are 'killing their pets with caring.' They want to give too much food, table scraps and too many treats. They simply don't realize how unhealthy that can be."

Obesity can cause a number of health problems, including diabetes and heart problems. Diabetes in animals can be treated successfully with diet and insulin, but treatments are expensive and difficult to undertake successfully with cats. Diabetes treatments require animals to eat on a consistent basis, and cats don't often enjoy following a schedule. Treating obesity before the animal becomes diabetic is a far simpler solution, Dr. Corry says.

"If we can get pet owners to comply with weight-loss plans, usually we don't have any problem getting the animal's weight under control,"Corry says. "Weight-loss diets generally involve specially formulated pet foods or simply a reduction of the amount of food the animal receives.

"Every member of the family has to be in agreement, because if one person is slipping the dog scraps under the table, the program won't work," he continues.

For dogs and cats on a diet, one little treat can truly be a diet buster. For example, giving a cat one potato chip may not seem like an extravagant snack, but it's equivalent to giving an adult human half a cheeseburger or half a candy bar. And giving your cat an ounce of milk is equivalent to eating four and a half cheeseburgers. Giving your pet pooch one hot dog is equivalent to you eating two cheeseburgers. Needless to say, giving a pet table scraps is a sure ticket to pet obesity.

The AVMA has partnered with Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc. to combat obesity by sponsoring the Alliance for Healthier Pets - Obesity Awareness and Prevention Program. The initiative's primary goal is to educate the public on how to recognize obesity and to suggest simple solutions. Visit www.petfit.com to see examples of how common pet treats translate into major calories. Watch as personal trainer Gunnar Petersen teaches pet owners how to exercise with their pets and then take the "Pet Fit" Challenge.

For more information about animal health, visit www.avma.org and visit www.avmatv.org for an informative video about pet obesity.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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