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Observe Pet Obesity Awareness Day in October

Monday, October 2, 2017  
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With the US pet obesity rate close to 54% for dogs and 59% for cats, the Arizona Veterinary Medical Association (AzVMA) encourages pet owners to join with their veterinarians to assess their pets’ weight and lifestyle in observance of Pet Obesity Awareness Day on Wednesday, October 11.  

The observance marks an annual nationwide survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), which includes results from participating veterinarians and pet owners.  This information is collected to report statistics on pet obesity each year.

“Obesity has been shown to have a negative impact on a pet’s health. Studies have shown that keeping a pet at an ideal body weight can extend a pet’s life up to 15% or approximately 2 years,” says Brian Serbin, DVM, of Ingleside Animal Hospital, Phoenix.  

Your veterinarian is a key resource in determining your pet’s ideal weight using a standardized reference tool called the body condition score (BCS).   The BCS rates your pet’s weight from their overhead and side silhouettes based on a standard body shape index.  An ideal BCS is indicated by an observable, but not extreme, waistline and a natural abdominal tuck; ribs are easily felt under a thin layer of fat.  Overweight and obese pets have rounder silhouettes with little or no waistline or abdominal tuck.  Their ribs are felt under a substantial layer of fat, or are not able to be felt at all.

Obesity can contribute to many health issues, including osteoarthritis, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart and respiratory disease, and cancer, as well as lead to a possible decreased life expectancy of as much as two or more years.  Additional obesity risks include skin disorders, orthopedic conditions, metabolic and endocrine disorders, kidney dysfunction and chronic inflammation.  Overweight pets are at a greater risk during anesthesia and surgery — compared to pets in the ideal BCS range, they metabolize anesthesia slower, take longer to wake up and experience more surgical complications.  Even a few extra pounds on a cat or dog can translate into the human equivalent of being 30 or more pounds overweight.

Successful weight-loss plans take time and commitment.  Cats are especially sensitive to rapid weight loss and may quickly develop hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease, which is potentially fatal.  Talk to your veterinarian about safe weight loss using a combination of exercise and the appropriate food and portion size. 

Exercise should be included in any weight loss plan.  Dogs may be walked, play in day care or dog parks, taken for a swim, and play games like tug-of-war in your home.  Cats can be engaged to play with toys, laser pointers, climbing trees and scratching posts, cardboard boxes and paper bags, and companion cats.  Focus on burning calories in fun ways.  Senior pets and those with health issues will benefit from adapted activities to suit their conditions.  Your efforts will pay off with your pet’s improved health and mobility.

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