This is a serious epidemic as being overweight has been linked with a higher incidence of a number of health issues including oral (mouth) disease, skin disease, diabetes, pancreatitis, thyroid disease, joint diseases such as arthritis and hip dysplasia, hepatitis, urinary tract disease, asthma, ruptured ligaments such as ACLs, liver disease, heart disease, kidney disease, exercise intolerance, slower wound healing, increased anesthetic risk, and cancer.
Even more importantly, it has been found that being overweight can significantly decrease lifespan. Purina did the first life-long study in dogs regarding diet and its effect on pets. Half of the dogs were fed free choice, meaning they were allowed to eat as much as they liked. The other half of the dogs were fed 25% less than what the free fed dogs ate. The differences were amazing. Dogs that were allowed to free feed had an average body condition score (BCS) of 6.7/9 (4.5/9 being ideal), whereas dogs that were slightly restricted had a BCS of 4.6. The control fed dogs lived 15% longer-almost 2 years, with an average of 13 years in the control fed dogs versus 11.2 years in the free fed dogs. Lastly, the control fed dogs didn’t start needing treatment for medical conditions until a median age of 12 years, whereas the free choice pets started needing treatment at a median age of 9.9 years.
What does this mean for your pet? Simply put, a pet kept at a healthy weight throughout life is a healthier pet, and has a longer average lifespan.
You may think an extra pound or two can’t hurt that much, but a pound is not just a pound. While two or three additional pounds may have very little effect on you or me, they can be quite serious for your pet. Three extra pounds on a fifteen pound dog is equivalent to a one hundred and fifty pound person gaining thirty extra pounds, and three extra pounds on a ten pound cat is equal to forty-five extra pounds on a one hundred and fifty pound person!
How can you help keep your pet healthy? We use something called the body condition score to assess a pet’s weight, as there can be quite a range of “normal” weights for a specific dog breed. Body condition score is a way to judge how much fat or muscle is on an animal and is more accurate than weight in judging an animal’s body composition. It is based on a 1-9 scale, with a 4-5 being a healthy weight.
To score body condition we look at:
- Are the bones visible? Bones such as the ribs, spine, and hip bones should not be visible in most dogs and cats. Some breeds are naturally leaner and in them it may be normal to see the bones.
- How easily are the ribs felt? They should feel as though you are running your finger over the back of your other hand’s fingers. There should be a slight fat covering, but you should not have to push hard to be able to feel the ribs.
- Is there a tuck of the abdomen visible from the side of the animal? There should be a nice tuck visible.
- Is there a waist visible when viewing the animal from above? There should be a waist visible. See http://www.purina.com/dog/weight-and-exercise/bodycondition.aspx for dogs BCS
See http://www.purina.com/cat/weight-control/bodycondition.aspx for cats BCS
Dr. Hartman and technician Kelli are certified pet weight coaches, as part of Project Pet Slimdown, a weightloss initiative by Purina. This means they have each completed an additional 13.5 hours of continuing education in nutrition and are qualified to create a weight loss program for your pet’s specific situation and needs. Dr. Hartman also is qualified to prescribe veterinary diets for a variety of other health issues such as kidney disease or food allergies. Schedule an appointment today so that we may discuss your pet’s individual needs to maintain a healthy lifestyle.