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Food Isn't Love: Why Dogs and Cats Shouldn't Pack on the Pounds

- Provided by VetStreet.com
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Sneaking your pooch or kitty extra food may seem like the ultimate act of kindness, especially when you see them salivating every time you take a bite of your tuna sandwich. Unfortunately, while overeating results in more of your pet to love, the ramification for your pet isn't worth the instant gratification of extra treats.

Obesity in pets causes a lot of the same problems it does in people. An overweight dog or cat is prone to a host of related problems, including diabetes, joint, ligament and tendon difficulties, as well as breathing and heart challenges. Overweight cats can even develop skin problems from not being able to groom themselves properly. The overall impact on comfort and longevity can be dire.

Is your pet overweight? Healthy pets have some padding on them, but a little is plenty. Rub your hands over the ribs of your dog or cat. The skin should move easily back and forth, and you should be able to feel (but not see) the ribs. Your pet should have a definable "waist" at the bottom of the rib cage, and a small tuck-in at the stomach. Take a look from the side: If your pet looks pregnant, he's fat. From above, a bump out from the middle into an apple shape is equally bad news. In birds, look for a thicker breast or rolls of fat.

Crash diets aren't good for pets, especially not for fat cats, who can develop a fatal liver problem if forced to reduce too quickly. A pet doesn't get fat overnight, and he shouldn't be forced to change course any more rapidly. What you'll need to do is change your pet's eating and exercise habits gradually.

The best place to start is with a trip to your veterinarian. You'll want to make sure your pet doesn't have any problems that might make lifestyle changes difficult or dangerous. Your vet can also suggest a food and exercise plan that might help.

Carve some time out of your schedule to walk your dog or play with your cat -- three times a week, at least. Be sure to work in some aerobic exercise that is safe and will get your pet moving, but watch closely for breathing problems, fatigue, or other evidence that your exercise buddy has had enough. Dividing the daily food ration into smaller portions and making pets work to find them or putting food in puzzles that require work to get at will also help.

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Specialty Care

Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

As part of the VCA family, we have over 83 specialty hospitals across the US and Canada which provide referral specialty care, so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: behavior, cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, integrative medicine, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology, rehabilitation, reproduction, and surgery.

Find a VCA Specialty Care Animal Hospital near you:

 

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Emergency Care

In case of emergency, please call us immediately. If it is after hours, check with a local animal hospital emergency clinic.

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