Food, Obesity and Pets
As I said in last month’s article; feeding your pet a good diet is the single most important thing you can do for their health and well- being. We all know that if we eat the right amount of good quality food and that it is balanced we are more likely to be healthy and live longer. It isn’t rocket science and it is no different for our pets. A large proportion of health issues suffered by humans are directly attributable to poor diets. Heart disease (due to high fat diets), high blood pressure (with excess salt a factor), diabetes, obesity (with associated joint and back disease), dental problems and certain cancers, including bowel cancer are all strongly linked to diet. ‘Cancer Research UK’ reports that unhealthy diets cause nearly one in ten cancer cases in the UK. In veterinary medicine we also see dietary linked diseases. Fortunately they are not as prevalent as with humans because pets can’t feed themselves bad diets like we do. However, the most common directly dietary- caused problem we do see with pets is obesity. Obesity is when they are 15-20% over their ideal weight. This means if an average NZ cat is 5kg then they are obese when they weigh in at 6kg. That is the equivalent of 2 blocks of butter in excess fat! As with humans it is mainly due to how much is eaten. It can be what is eaten too if they are fed high fat diets, such as poor quality pet rolls (which are a by-product of the meat industry off- cuts) or if pets are fed lots of inappropriate human food. I knew a very fat little Chihuahua dog that was only ever fed saveloys and ice- cream! She died of a complication of the obesity at the young age of seven. Exercise has less impact on weight although it is still very important to help manage weight, keep the heart and blood pressure in a good state and help with musculo- skeletal health. Again this is all the very same as with humans. One aspect of the dry foods that can be an issue is that because they are so concentrated, in that they contain very little water, dogs and cats only need a small amount each day to maintain their health and weight. An average 30kg dog usually needs only 2 teacups of premium dry food a day, and most cats only need about 4 tablespoons a day. The good news with this is that you will not only have a healthier pet, but save money.
By Dr Ian Schraa, Rappaw Veterinary Care senior veterinarian and owner