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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

Make 2012 Your Pet’s Best Ever, With Three Reasonable New Year’s Resolutions

What 2012 New Year’s resolutions are you making for yourself? This year, I’m pledging to spend more unscheduled play time with my dog, Cardiff, in commemoration of two healthy years since his last episode of Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (see I Am So Thankful for the Health of My Dog).

How about New Year’s resolutions for your pet? As pets are incapable of carrying out lifestyle changes themselves, you must proactively promote the best possible quality of life for them.

This year, initiate change for your pet by integrating healthful habits into everyday life.

Focus on Food

As many pet owners show love through food, obesity often results from ignorance of, or lack of, commitment to recommended feeding guidelines. Excessive intake plus deficient activity equals an overweight pet. 

Obesity is the number one nutritional disease affecting American pets (see Pet Obesity: Health Implications, Recognition, and Weight Management). The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) estimates that 51 per of dogs and cats (approximately 89 million pets) in the United States are overweight or obese. Serious and life altering ailments, including arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and reduced immune system functioning, can result from carrying too much weight.

Consult with your veterinarian about your pet’s body condition score (BCS). In my clinical practice, I refer to Purina’s BCS scale of 1-9. The ideal BCS is 5. 1 is the extreme of thinness and 9 is the extreme of obesity. Pets with a BCS over 5, yet less than 7, are considered overweight. A BCS greater than 7 classifies a pet as obese.

Ask your veterinarian to create dietary guidelines tailored to your pet’s energetic needs promoting BCS improvements. My general suggestions for paunchy pets include:

  • Decrease portion size by 25-33 percent
  • Increase frequency of feeding, such as three to four smaller portions per 24 hours
  • Reduce consumption of highly processed dry pet foods by incorporating moisture, fiber, and nutrient filled whole foods

  

Commit to Daily Exercise

Set sustainable activity goals for yourself and your pet. Participate in some form of mood and heart rate enhancing physical activity on a daily basis. If your current fitness plan has gotten stagnant, start fresh for 2012. Walk your dog a longer distance around your neighborhood or choose a more vigorous hiking trail.

Pet exercise isn’t exclusive to dogs. If you have a corpulent kitty, create an indoor activity program using a laser pointer or feather toy to entice movement. Elevate the food bowl to a height that requires jumping or climbing to achieve a meal. Divide dry food feedings into many individual portions, then toss the kibble a distance that motivates natural predatory behavior and redirection.

Before starting on an exercise program with your cat or dog, arrange for a veterinary exam to ensure your pet is healthy enough for physical activity.

Pledge to Readily Resolve Illness

Does your pet receive an annual wellness exam with a veterinarian? He or she should, as wellness exams create the opportunity for your veterinarian to observe illness trends, establish a diagnosis, and swiftly recommend treatment.

Geriatric pets (greater than seven years of age), and those with any ongoing health issues (including arthritis, endocrine disease, cancer, and allergic skin disease), should be examined more frequently.

Commit to readily resolving recognized health problems before irreversible damage occurs. Besides obesity, periodontal disease is a preventable condition I proactively address in my clinical practice. The oral cavity is a source of infection and inflammation that can adversely affect the health of internal organs (kidneys, liver, heart, pancreas, etc.) and the immune system. Dr. Jan Bellows, Diplomate of the American Veterinary Dental College, defines periodontal disease as "the disease process that begins with gingivitis (inflammation of gingiva, i.e., gum tissue) and progresses to periodontitis (erosion of the teeth’s supporting structures) when left untreated." According to a study done by Larry Glickman, professor of epidemiology at the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine, a statistically increased incidence of heart disease in dogs is associated with an increased severity of periodontal disease.

Your pet will benefit from habitual teeth brushing along with regular teeth cleaning under the guidance of your veterinarian.

Dr. Patrick Mahaney

Image: Cardiff by Dr. Mahaney

Comments  2

Leave Comment
  • Untreated Dental Disease
    12/27/2011 06:23am

    For anyone who has even had a toothache, multiply the pain times ten. That's what it must feel to a critter whose gums are infected and multiple teeth need to be extracted.

  • 12/28/2011 01:06am

    Great point regarding the discomfort pets experience when suffering from periodontal disease.
    Beside gingival (gum) bleeding from gingivitis and bad breath, periodontal disease causes pain that can manifest as decreased appetite, lethargy, chewing using parts of the mouth that are less painful, etc.
    Periodontal disease and the life threatening sequelae are so preventable with owner persistence in prioritizing pet dental health.
    Dr PM


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