Obesity in Pets

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We’ve all heard about the obesity epidemic in America. 36% of adults and 17% of children in the U.S. were considered clinically obese from 2011 to 2014. Around an additional 20% were considered overweight during that time. What we don’t often hear about is the obesity epidemic in our pets. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, in 2015, 54% of dogs and 58% of cats were considered overweight or obese, making obesity one of the more common, yet preventable, diseases we see in our pets.

But, why does obesity matter?

Diseases that have been associated with obesity in pets include but are not limited to osteoarthritis, Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart and respiratory disease, knee ligament injury, kidney disease, urinary bladder disease, cancer, and decreased life expectancy (up to 2.5 years). So, if decreasing unplanned visits to the veterinarian and unwanted prescription costs sounds good to you, getting that extra weight off of your pet may be your best opportunity.

So, how do I get rid of those unwanted pounds?

First, before starting any diet or exercise program, it is important to ensure your pet is healthy by making sure he/she is up to date on his/her annual physical.

More than any other disease, obesity is one that you, as an owner, have substantial control over.  Diet is probably the easiest variable to control to start making immediate improvements in your pet’s body condition. See the table below, from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention website (http://petobesityprevention.org), to check how many calories your pet should be eating per day and then make adjustments based on the type of food you feed and your pet’s individual activity level.  Remember to include all food sources, including treats, rawhides, Greenie-type dental chews, as well as people-food, which can all be very high in calories. If your pet is already getting an apparently appropriate intake of calories but is still overweight or obese, a good rule-of-thumb is to decrease the total daily intake of food by 25%, starting first with people food and treats. Remember, however, that some diseases, such as hypothyroidism can affect your pet’s ability to lose weight, and you should also consult with your veterinarian if you have questions or your pet continues to be overweight despite these simple interventions.

 

Cats
10 lbs. 180 to 200 calories*
Dogs
10 lbs. 200 to 275 calories*
20 lbs. 325 to 400 calories*
50 lbs. 700 to 900 calories*

 

Daily Caloric Needs for Active Humans

Male 2500 Calories
Female 2000 Calories

 

*Please note that the calorie counts provided are guidelines for average lightly active adult spayed or neutered dogs or cats (1 to 7 years old receiving less than 30 minutes of aerobic activity per day). The caloric needs of a particular pet may differ depending on such factors as lifestyle, genetics, activity level and medical conditions. Your pet will likely be fed fewer calories if you are attempting to reduce weight and improve fitness. Note that most indoor cats receive very little sustained aerobic activity and many dogs do not receive adequate daily physical activity. We recommend a structured, routine exercise and nutritional program for your pet.

Second to diet, and maybe just as important for the control of obesity, is a regular exercise program. 20-30 minutes of moderate activity per day is a reasonable goal. For a dog, this could include brisk walking or fetching a tennis ball. For a cat, a toy mouse on a string can provide a good source of mental and physical stimulation. In winter, when it is tough to get outside for exercise, consider treadmill training for your dog. When thinking of ways to get exercise for you or your pet, consider that any amount of activity is better than none. And what a great opportunity to bond with your pet and increase their quality of life, and maybe your own too!

  • Joseph Conrad, DVM
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Cold Weather Pet Care Tips

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Scout W. enjoying some outdoor play time in our Daycare yard.

The first day of winter is on Monday, December 21st, 2015. After our recent bout of chilly winter weather here in Colorado, Dr. Conrad wanted to share some important cold weather pet care tips:

Outdoor Pets: Pets who spend a large amount of time outdoors or who live outdoors require more food for fuel to keep their bodies warm in the winter time. Also be sure to check those outside water bowls daily to ensure they don’t freeze.

Indoor Pets: Consider a sweater or an extra blanket for your furry family members. Just because they have fur themselves doesn’t mean they couldn’t use a little help warding off the chills during those cold Colorado nights.

If you use space heaters or a fireplace, be careful of burns. Do not allow pets to sleep on or near space heaters, and always use a fireguard screen. Be particularly careful with wagging tails near fire, and never allow pets to play near fire or heaters.

  • Joseph Conrad, DVM

Chocolate Not a Treat for Your Pets

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Trixie the Astronaut getting ready to blast off  on a fun and safe Trick-Or-Treating adventure.

With fall’s arrival and the holidays right around the corner, we at Longs Peak Animal Hospital, PC wanted to send out a friendly reminder to keep those chocolatey treats out of reach of your furry family members. If your pets happen to ingest some chocolate or a dessert containing chocolate or caffeine, below are some helpful guidelines so that you know what to do in the case of just such an emergency.

High volumes of milk chocolate and even smaller volumes of dark or baker’s chocolate can cause severe illness in dogs and cats, though dogs are more common offenders. Pure cocoa, cocoa beans, and coffee can cause severe illness as well. A list of commonly ingested foods containing chocolate or caffeine follows this article.

If your dog gets into your or your child’s secret stash of chocolate, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. It is helpful to keep the wrapper (if Fluffy didn’t eat that too) and to have an idea of how much of the chocolate the pet ate. If you no longer have the wrapper, knowing the type and the approximate size of the chocolate can be helpful to figure out the risk of toxicity.

Depending on the amount and type of chocolate ingested, clinical signs range from mild (gastrointestinal) to moderate (cardiovascular, respiratory) to severe (neurologic, death). Gastrointestinal signs include vomiting and diarrhea and are usually self-limiting, meaning they last for just a few hours to as much as a few days. Cardiovascular signs include a high heart rate and abnormal heart rhythm and can be life-threatening. Respiratory signs include rapid respiratory rate and respiratory failure leading to death. Neurologic signs can include seizures and, in more severe cases, even death.

Treatment for chocolate ingestion usually begins with ridding the gastrointestinal tract of the offending substance, provided the patient presents within a few hours of ingestion. This usually involves making the pet vomit. If a small amount of chocolate was ingested and we are satisfied that the majority was obtained with vomiting, treatment may end here. Rarely, pumping the stomach may be required to remove a large amount of chocolate. In moderate to severe cases, we may recommend treatment with activated charcoal to prevent absorption of the toxins in the chocolate. We may also recommend hospitalization for intravenous fluids and monitoring of the heart.

Going into this holiday season, it is important to be careful about unwanted treats for our furry family members. If you have little ones, educate them about the dangers to your pets with regard to all human food, particularly the chocolatey ones. Make sure you store dangerous foods and toxins out of reach of your pets. If an accident does happen, as they always will, don’t panic and seek immediate veterinary care.

Commonly ingested foods containing chocolate or caffeine:

  • Chocolate candy
  • Brownies and other chocolate or cocoa-containing baked goods
  • Cocoa powder
  • Chocolate-covered espresso beans
  • White chocolate
  • Caffeine pills
  • Energy drinks, powder, and gels
  • Coffee (even decaffeinated)
  • Tea

If you have any specific questions about foods that are potentially harmful to your pets, ask your veterinarian or veterinary technician. Visit longspeakah.com for more information about our hospital and services and on Facebook.

  • Joseph Conrad

Leptospirosis: To Vaccinate or Not To Vaccinate…

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Earlier in 2015, you may have read about a perceived uptick in cases of leptospirosis, especially in urban and suburban dogs. You might have asked yourself, what is leptospirosis? And then, is there anything I can do to help protect my dog? The good news is, yes, there is! And now is an important time to review the facts.

Leptospirosis is a species of spiral or corkscrew-shaped bacteria, known as spirochetes. The bacteria are transmitted through contact with mucous membranes, such as the mouth or eyes, or with damaged skin. The bacteria are often passed in the urine of wildlife, such as deer, foxes, and raccoons and are sometimes found in standing water on trails or in greenspaces or backyards.  An unsuspecting dog may then drink from a puddle contaminated with urine containing the bacteria and contract the disease.

Almost all mammals, including humans, are susceptible to the disease, which can cause liver and kidney failure, eye problems, and anemia, among other things. Cats, however, appear to be relatively resistant to the negative effects of the disease, but can remain carriers after infection.

Clinical signs of the disease include fever, decreased appetite, increased urination and water consumption, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea. If you notice these in your dog, you should seek immediate veterinary care. Recommended diagnostics may include a general blood panel, x-rays, a urinalysis, urine culture, and/or leptospirosis testing.

Prevention of the disease is aimed at informing pet owners of the risks and vaccinating at-risk patients.  Traditionally, vaccination efforts have focused on those patients most at risk of contracting the disease like hunting dogs, dogs who hike or camp with their owners, or dogs who live on farms or in other rural areas. In Colorado, however, we can find wildlife in almost any place, even suburban or urban areas. As such, if you think your pet is at risk, you should have them vaccinated immediately.

Initially, your dog will need a booster vaccination at 4 weeks after the first vaccination. From then on, vaccination is performed annually. Unfortunately, the vaccine only protects against 4 of the 8 serovars, or strains, of leptospirosis that effect dogs, so it is not 100% effective. The vaccine may also carry a slightly higher risk of vaccine reactions, similar to a reaction from a bee sting for someone who is allergic to bees. These reactions are rarely, if ever, life-threatening when treated appropriately, as opposed to the disease, which is often fatal to dogs. Despite these 2 potential drawbacks of the vaccine, it is the best protection currently available and is strongly recommended for at-risk patients living in Colorado.

As always, if you have any other specific questions about leptospirosis, your dog’s risk, or the vaccine, ask your veterinarian or veterinary technician. Visit longspeakah.com for more information about our hospital and services.

  • Joseph Conrad