Keep four­legged friends

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Her Pets - By Col­bie Mc­Cloud

While they can’t join in the com­mon New Year’s res­o­lu­tion of shed­ding the ex­tra pounds gained from hol­i­day treats, furry friends can still lose weight, and give pet own­ers up to two ad­di­tional years of un­con­di­tional af­fec­tion.

“If we can keep pets at a lean weight, stud­ies have shown that they will live two years longer. It is truly a good way to get more qual­ity time with your pet,” said Jes­sica Rhodes, D.V.M. at Coun­try­side An­i­mal Hospital.

Like hu­mans, obese an­i­mals can be prone to di­a­betes, heart dis­ease, arthri­tis and joint in­juries. Due to their pos­ture, see­ing knee and hip in­juries, arthri­tis and res­pi­ra­tory prob­lems is not an un­com­mon sight for vet­eri­nar­i­ans.

To de­ter­mine if an an­i­mal is obese, vets do not use a scale, but rather a body con­di­tion score. Healthy weight dogs should have an hour­glass shape at their flanks, their ribs should be eas­ily felt through their skin with­out hav­ing to press on them and their stom­ach should be tucked un­der­neath.

“If you use that stan­dard for ev­ery an­i­mal, you don’t have to nec­es­sar­ily see what the scale says. It is kind of a safer way to judge if they are a healthy weight or not,” Rhodes said.

Ex­er­cise is im­por­tant, but Rhodes ad­vises pet own­ers to be re­al­is­tic in de­ter­min­ing what they can do. She said a lot of pet own­ers try to sched­ule out and plan that they’ll take their dog on a 30-minute walk ev­ery day, but ei­ther their phys­i­cal abil­i­ties or sched­ule do not al­low them to.

“A lot of times peo­ple plan, ‘Well,

"If we can keep pets at a lean weight, stud­ies have shown that they will live two years longer. It is truly a good way to get more qual­ity time with your pet." - Dr. Jes­sica Rhodes

I’m go­ing do more with them. I want to ex­er­cise, too.’ If you have a crazy life and you can’t fit in a 30-minute walk a day, you can still main­tain a healthy weight by feed­ing them prop­erly,” Rhodes said.

Due to the growth rate of pup­pies, obe­sity is not seen as much un­til adult­hood, at about 2 years old. Rhodes rec­om­mends that if the dog has a couch potato life­style, then they should not be fed like an ath­letic dog.

For spayed or neutered dogs, the calorie in­take re­quire­ments de­crease with the lost in­flu­ence of testos­terone or estro­gen. Dog food pack­ages that list the amount of food to feed a dog by their weight only ac­counts for non-spayed or non-neutered dogs.

“If you fol­low that chart and your an­i­mal is spayed or neutered, you ac­tu­ally need to feed it 25 per­cent less than what the bag is telling you. They re­quire fewer calo­ries be­cause of the in­flu­ence hor­mones have on the body,” Rhodes said.

The dog bis­cuits that are drool wor­thy among our four- legged friends may be more harm­ful to a dog’s health than worth the health ef­fects. Rhodes said salty, fatty treats are sim­i­lar to giv­ing a dog a cheese­burger or dog bis­cuit each time they go and potty out­side or be­have near the din­ner table.

“If you have a large size dog bis- cuit, that is the same as giv­ing your dog an ex­tra fourth of a cup of dog food for each one of those bis­cuits. We are giv­ing them a lot of junk food for be­ing good dogs,” Rhodes said.

Not only are some of the over-the­counter treats harm­ful, but the ex­tra table scraps can help pack on the pounds. Rhodes rec­om­mends stay­ing away from feed­ing a dog ba­con, gravy, ba­con grease, hot dogs, hams and other fatty foods. Fruits and veg­eta­bles are healthy op­tions for treat re­place­ment and can make a dog fill full with­out added calo­ries.

“Of­fer green beans in­stead of dog treats. That (green beans) is a source of fiber. They feel like they have some­thing in their tummy, but there are no calo­ries in green beans,” Rhodes said.

“You can get a bag of frozen veg­eta­bles. Those are crunchy be­cause they are frozen. Some­times they like the tex­ture of that crunch.”

Ap­ples are safe for dogs to con­sume, but stay away from toxic fruits and veg­eta­bles, in­clud­ing grapes and onions.

Some med­i­cal con­di­tions such as hy­pothy­roidism make dogs less ac­tive and los­ing weight a strug­gle. If at-home weight loss at­tempts do not show re­sults over a few months, Rhodes said the dog should be ex­am­ined to de­ter­mine if there is a med­i­cal cause.

Dr. Jes­sica Rhodes of Coun­try­side An­i­mal Hospital.

Dr. Jes­sica Rhodes ex­am­ines Molly

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