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Pet Obesity: It’s more serious than you may think

PATRICK AFB, Fla. -- Did you know ... approximately 50% of U.S. dogs are overweight or obese?

Do you have a round pup? The health risks of obesity are real. It contributes to many medical conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, heart and lung disease, high blood pressure, compromised immune function and can even predispose to certain types of cancer.

It has been well documented that dogs maintaining an ideal body weight live 15% longer, and with less disease, than overweight dogs. It is a fact that dogs will live shorter lives if obesity is not addressed.

While most dog owners realize that their dog may be "a little heavy", they often don't recognize when their dog is truly obese. When the vet says "Fluffy" should lose 5 pounds, it often goes in one ear and right out the other. Really...who doesn't have 5 pounds to lose? But this is us thinking in human weight terms. Let's think in dog terms. Did you know....

- Five extra pounds on a (should-be) 12 pound Shih Tzu is like 58 extra pounds on a 140 pound woman.

- Five extra pounds on a (should-be) 25 pound Beagle is like 28 extra pounds on a 140 pound woman.

- Five extra pounds on a (should-be) 70 pound Lab Retriever is like 10 extra pounds on a 140 pound woman. (Dr. Spector- Canine obesity)

The first dog in this example is morbidly obese at 42% over ideal body weight. The second dog is also obese at 20% over ideal body weight. The third dog is overweight at 7% over ideal body weight.

The questions I commonly get asked is; what causes obesity?

While some dogs do have a medical condition that predisposes them to obesity, most often it is a result of simple over feeding. While dogs are frequently overfed their food, treats are also a major source of hidden calories.

For example:

A premium pig ear on average has about 230 calories. If you give this pig ear as a treat to a 40 pound dog (who should be eating around 620 calories each day), it is the same as a person (on a 2300 calorie diet) eating two double cheese burgers as a treat in addition to their normal meals. This pig ear represents close to 40% of that dog's daily calorie requirement. (Dr. Spector)

One inch cube of cheese fed to your dog is the same as you eating a Big Mac from MacDonald's. (Hills Pet Nutrition)

Many commercial dog treats are filled with calories, sugar, and other potentially unhealthy ingredients that do nothing to satisfy hunger and just contribute to our dog's ever expanding waistlines.

Choosing treats like fresh or lightly cooked vegetables or puffed corn can help avoid hidden calories. You can also break the treats up into multiple pieces. Most dogs don't know that they are only getting ¼ of a dog treat and they will thank you later on when they are not out of breath walking up the stairs.

So what can you do if your pet is over weight?

· The first step is to admit there is a problem. Get motivated on your dog's behalf!
· Talk to your vet. At Patrick AFB VTF we are more than happy to help with a weight loss plan. First start by getting your pet a full check up to rule out medical reasons for the weight gain.

Next it is important to find out just how overweight or obese your dog is and what their ideal body weight is. This will give you a goal to reach. Lastly, we can help you figure out many calories they should eat each day so you can have a better idea of the actual amount of kibble to feed.

Too often we hear people feeding a "scoop" to Scruffy when he seems hungry. Well when we actual measure the scoop it turns out to be two cups worth of food. It is very important to know the amount of food that you are scooping into your pets bowl.

· Choose the best food for weight loss for your dog. Many times there are foods sold at pet stores and even the commissary that are for weight control. These foods have reduced calories and can help your pet shed the extra pounds.

· Exercise your dog briskly for at least 40 minutes every day! This is good for you and your animal. Take advantage of the beautiful state we live in and enjoy the outdoors.

· Monitor your dog's progress and stay on track. You can visit our new facility located behind the 45th Medical Group for weekly weigh ins. Let us know your pet's weight when you visit and we will chart your progress in the computer on your pet's record.

If you have any questions please give us a call! 321-494-6080