Is your Dog or Cat Overweight? Check them into an Obesity Pet Clinic
Let’s face it, America has some weight issues. The obesity rates have skyrocketed and now it seems that it has rubbed off on our pets. Nearly 60% of America’s pets are considered obese. Let me start off by saying that I’m guilty of owning a plus size cat. His name is Julio and he has a few extra pounds of love on him and he happens to have white-colored fur, which we all know can make you look bigger. I feed his sister Layla the same amount of food and somehow she remains svelte and lean (or maybe she’s secretly practicing portion control as Julio eats her kibbles – who knows). Nevertheless, Julio could use some help from weight watchers or Jenny Craig. All jokes aside, I know being obese (for people or pets) can be a serious issue. Apparently, a University in Massachusetts thinks so too because they have decided to open up the nation’s first obesity pet clinic.
When people try and lose weight it can sometimes be complicated and require assistance from health experts, trainers, or nutritionists (or all three!) Unfortunately, there are very few resources like this for animals. True veterinary nutritionists are hard to find with less than 100 people who completed multi-year residencies in clinical nutrition and have passed the certification exam to join the American College of Veterinary Nutritionists (ACVN). For this reason, the University decided to offer specialized care for obese pets with at least three of these professionals offering assistance at the clinic. The obesity pet clinic was created by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and involves a wealth of education and advice on helping dogs and cats shed those extra pounds.
Fat Shouldn’t be Cute
As Julio packs on the pounds, he doesn’t feel self-conscious about it. His hanging belly and double chin don’t stare back at him in the mirror and make him depressed like it might if he were a person. Animals are lucky enough to not have to put up with social stigmas that we humans do. However, he will most definitely face the same unhealthy consequences that come along with being overweight just like with people, if he continues on this path. These include conditions like diabetes, hip dysplasia (common in big dogs), poor quality of life, and a shortened life expectancy.
Many people find chubby pets adorable but unfortunately there are a host of problems that come along with a pudgy face. There’s something about a round fuzzy animal that makes you want to cuddle it. But what lies beneath the fur could be putting their health in danger. We need to shed that mentality that “food = love” otherwise we could quite literally love our pets to death.
According to vet specialists, putting your pet on a diet has its risks and should actually be consulted by your vet beforehand. An overweight arthritic dog that suddenly goes on a strict diet can actually worsen his problem and cause ligament tears. In addition, it could be risky to put your cats on a sudden diet since cats cannot handle calorie restrictions. If an obese kitty goes on a crash diet it can send a signal to the body to send fat stores to their liver where it can be converted to glucose. Over time, this can create a crowded liver filled with fat deposits ultimately suffocating normal cells resulting in hepatitis.
Green Lifestyle = Striving for Good Health
Opening up a sort of wellness center for animals corresponds with a green lifestyle in a few ways. First, being healthy ourselves is a part of being green; picking out healthy local foods and getting away from energy sucking electronics by exercising outdoors, are ways we maintain that lifestyle. Having an in-shape healthy pet is almost a reflection of us. In my mind, a green lifestyle should breed positivity, practicality, and an overall sense of well being and as far as I’m concerned – health fits into that mold. So if that means we should take our portly pets on a daily run in the park then so be it.
Forget Doggy Spa Centers, Where are the Health Clinics?
I work at a vet clinic and I know that the doctor doesn’t always have time to have lengthy conversations about the specifics of your animal’s diet and nutrition needs. In special cases, I could see why a certified vet nutritionist may come in handy. When you visit the pet obesity clinic at tufts University, expect to keep a daily log of your animal’s food intake (food diary) where you will likely be counting calories. They have underwater treadmills for dogs and special feeding strategies for cats.
It would be nice to see more of these obesity pet clinics pop around different towns. There are plenty of doggy spa centers offering blueberry scrub facials and mud masks (we have a couple down the street from the clinic where I work) but for some reason not a health care center in sight. There is something wrong with that picture in my book. And as far as Julio’s health, he will be on a regimine in no time.(Julio Below)
Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by _Chag and bittermelon and Angie via Flickr.
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