Is your Pooch Fat? Has your Kitty Developed a Paunch?

Pet obesity is on the rise. Not just in the United States but in other countries such as Britain. The evidence is clear: like their human caretakers cats and dogs are becoming more and more rotund. According to Hills clinical evidence reports, over 50% of dogs in the UK are overweight. In the United States the numbers are lower: approximately 25% of the U.S. pet population is either overweight or obese. Interestingly enough, Hills research reports that 76% of pet owners think their pooches or kitties are at a healthy weight.

One in every four pet owners admit to never exercising themselves or their dogs. This coupled with the fact that pets often become surrogate children lends itself to over-pampered pooches and kitties. Extra helpings of food, or the wrong type of food, can quickly pack on the weight. A cat’s or dog’s life expectancy is already short. Added fat around the heart and vital organs will only reduce its lifespan. Not only that, but the quality of life will be curtailed by stress on heart, liver, and joints. Indeed, several diseases specific to diet are associated with obesity. Consider the risk: diabetes, heart disease, skin disease, respiratory problems, lowered immunity, and arthritis.

Humans tend to think of food as a source of love. It’s so easy to hand out a treat or a piece of food from your plate. The appreciative grin on your dog’s face is reward in itself. The purr of your cat lets you know that you are amazing! Yet, feeding your pets additional snacks is damaging. One dog biscuit or one cat treat is the equivalent of a small meal. Let’s face it, most pet owners feed their pets snacks throughout the day. Feeding your pet quality snacks is not the problem. But if you are like many pet owners, a potato chip here and there, a French fry, a piece of burger, or in the case of a cat, a slice of salmon, can quickly become the road to weight gain; particularly when this snacking habit is combined with lack of exercise.

Despite words of admonition from veterinarians and health conscious holistic practitioners there is a myriad of internet mis-information that glorifies fat pets. The rolly-polly pet is portrayed as cute and cuddly. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is nothing cute or cuddly about killing a pet with food. It is a slow death that will eventually result in large veterinarian bills and a poor-quality life for the animal.

Fortunately for owners who take their pets’ health seriously there are solutions. Exercise as well as reduced calories can effectively erase the extra pounds. Additionally, when pooches and their pet parents exercise together their bond is strengthened. There are many types of exercise that are fun for both the pet and his human: walks, hikes, swimming, games of fetch, and jogging. Just 30 minutes a day can make a huge difference in your dog’s weight control.

Unfortunately, cats do not go jogging or walking with their humans. However, there are methods of stimulating cats to exercise. Cat “fisher” toys are poles with a feathered “bait” hanging on the end. These are very successful in luring cats into their natural hunter mode. Dangling a feather, or a string, in front of your cat will quickly engage him into running and leaping over furniture. Do this several times a day and you will discover how fun it is for yourself and at the same time it’ll be great exercise for kitty.

Obviously a pet parent will need to be cruel to be kind. That is, you will have to withhold those extra helpings of food, snacks, and treats. It’s the only solution. Keep in mind that this is actually going to give your dog an extra two to three years of good quality life with you. A cat’s lifespan can be increased by up to five years! And in the long run, isn’t having your beloved pet around longer, more important than the instant gratification they receive from a tasty morsel?

About the author:

Gyvel Young is a journalist and published author. Her passion is animal behavior and nutrition.

Dog Flu? Is your Pooch at Risk?

It’s known as canine influenza virus and it’s causing quite a stir among dog owners. The dog flu, known as H3N8, does not affect humans. It is however quickly spread from dog to dog. Originally this virus affected only horses, or so it was thought, until a pack of greyhounds turned up with it in 2004.

The outbreak on the East Coast and Colorado has caused alarm among pooch pet parents. And that is understandable, after all , who wants to see their beloved Fido go through the misery of the flu? The good news is there is a vaccine that was approved in May. It doesn’t prevent your furry canine from getting the flu but it does reduce the severity of the symptoms. This vaccine is administered in shots given two weeks apart.

But is it really necessary to vaccinate your dog or to be concerned? Apparently not if you live in Texas. The doggy flu has not hit Texas—yet.

Dogs who are at high risk for this flu are dogs who are enrolled in doggy day care or who are boarded at the kennel. Dogs who travel extensively are also at risk.

The good news is that if your dog is the typical household dog who goes for walks around the neighborhood and who rarely has social contact with strange dogs the risk of contracting dog flu is very low.

The canine doggy flu has hit the East Coast and Colorado but so far Texas has not had a single case.

What are the symptoms of doggy flu? The same as any human flu: runny nasal discharge, sneezing, coughing, and fever. Your veterinarian can do a test to see if your dog has the H3N8 virus.

Don’t Leave Pets in Cars: OverHeating Kills!

Please—don’t leave your dog in the car! A parked vehicle can become an oven that will literally bake your dog …

Never leave your dog or other pet in a parked car, not even to run in for a “quick” errand. The inside temperature of your car is about 20 degrees hotter than the outside temperature. This means that on an 85 degree Fahrenheit day the interior of your vehicle is 102 degrees F. Even if you leave the windows cracked open or park in a shady spot the interior temperature will continue to rise. This is because the vehicle’s ambient heat is retained by its windows and upholstery— the dog’s own body heat will also add to this rise in temperature.

A few minutes in a hot car can kill your dog!

A few minutes in a hot car will kill your dog!

Unlike humans, dogs have no way of expelling heat from their body except through their paws and their tongue. In addition, their internal temperature is between 101 degrees and 102 degrees, much higher than a humans. If heat is not expelled rapidly enough his internal temperature will keep rising. It only takes a rise of 3 degrees to put your dog into the danger zone.

When a dog’s internal temperature reaches 108 degrees F. all the internal organs begin to rapidly break down. Even immediate treatment and rapid cooling (to bring the temperature down) can leave a dog with permanent organ and brain damage.

Did you know that a parked car’s temperature can rise 34 degrees a minute? A parked vehicle becomes an oven that will literally bake your dog from the inside out. Even a quick errand into the store on a 95 degree day can result in the death of your pet. Think about it, if the outside temperature is 90 degrees F. your car’s interior will hit 110 degrees within just a few moments and it will keep rising! If it is 100 degrees outside (as it often is here in Texas) your dog will be roasting in a 120 degree car!

If you see a dog locked inside a car on a hot day do not hesitate to call for help, if the outside temperature is 80 degrees or hotter than please break open the window and release the animal immediately!

Overheating kills. Don't let a dog suffer in a hot car.

If you witness an animal locked in a car during hot weather and you live in Austin call 311. If you are using a cell phone and you are reporting an incident in Austin you can call 515-972-4738. Otherwise call your local Sheriff’s office or other local authorities and for the sake of the animal take immediate action to rescue it.

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