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  Volume No. 15 Issue No. 11 November 2018  

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Dr. Jim Humphries

  Overweight pets lose two years of life
  By Dr. Jim Humphries

   America's obesity crisis continues, despite constant public education from doctor’s offices to schools to all types of media.
   A troubling new report released just last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that almost 40 percent of American adults and nearly 20 percent of adolescents are obese — the highest rates ever recorded for the United States.
   Quick definitions: Doctors usually define “overweight” as a condition in which a person’s weight is 10 to 20 percent higher than “normal,” as defined by a standard height/weight chart or a BMI (body mass index) of 25 to 30.
   Obesity is usually defined as a condition in which a person’s weight is 20 percent or more above normal weight or a BMI of 30 or more. “Morbid obesity” means a person is either 50 to 100 percent over normal weight, more than 100 pounds over normal weight, or sufficiently overweight to severely interfere with health or normal functioning.
   About one in four North American adults are considered obese. But this epidemic is not limited to our continent nor is it confined to our species. More than half of our dogs and cats are overweight or obese.
   I see so many pets, of all breeds, that are at the end of their life, and obesity is either the reason they are dying, or it is complicating their health and recovery from almost any type of illness. Yet, obesity can be the reason for early death in our pets and — here is the hard part — it CAN be controlled –- by you!
   According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 54 percent of all dogs and 60 percent of all cats are classified as overweight or obese. Even with a decade of public education, these numbers are going UP!
   Veterinarians nationwide are showing serious concern over the increase in the numbers of portly pets. An overweight pet is more prone to heart problems, poor skin condition, lameness and severe pain from osteoarthritis; and more serious illnesses, like diabetes. A groundbreaking study shows how pets that get their food in a “free-choice” manner live an average of two years less than pets who are simply fed twice a day: two years less!
   Often times, I find that no one has ever actually shown many pet owners how to measure out their pet’s food or use a scoop calibrated to an exact number of cups. A coffee can full is not a measurement. You should have a scoop that shows the numbers of cups, or a scoop marked with a cup measurement. This will allow you to feed the right amount of calories based on the type of diet you give to your pets. If you don’t know this important number, it is either on the side of the bag, or can be found online or by calling your veterinarian’s office.
   Devise a diet plan, hopefully with your veterinarian’s help, that will let you safely reduce the number of calories being fed while also increasing the calories being burned through activity. Avoid any type of self-choice-feeding. Like us, our pets will do better if they eat small meals more frequently rather than one large meal in the evening. Also ask your veterinarian about a new prescription diet that actually burns calories and makes losing weight much easier. The diet is called “Metabolic ®” and is a prescription like a pharmaceutical. This diet is used only for cases that need dramatic or quick weight reduction; it is not something you should feed all the time.
   Finally, make exercise a priority. Start slow, make sure you are not pushing them on sore joints, but build up to where both of you are taking good walks — and enjoy it. Here is the key: The simple combination of fewer calories and more calorie burn is how we all lose weight. That is for our pets and for us humans on the other end of the leash. Why is it so hard? Why after at least four decades are we still seeing obesity rise? It is because our society has thousands of choices for foods that are way too high in calories and fats, and we are on the lazy side when it comes to exercise. Buying the right high-quality commercial diet, then feeding the proper amount of that diet, plus heading out for a nice walk in the neighborhood is the simple formula to fixing this problem. Maintenance is easy; reduction results take time, but the net outcome can give you two more years with your friend. Check out the site:
   Above all, stay in communication with your veterinarian. You may run into temporary setbacks or even obstacles, which will require a revision of your pet’s diet and exercise plan. Your pet might even need pain medication to get through this, but your veterinarian will help you with all this. As you can see, it is worth working at this because it makes life better and a bit longer for everyone.

   Dr. Jim Humphries is a veterinarian and provides hospice and end-of-life care for pets in the Colorado Springs area. He also serves as a visiting professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. He lives in Falcon with his wife, horses and Great Danes.
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