Diet and Obesity
Dog and cat owners invest time, money and emotion into choosing the best foods for their pets, a phenomenon recently explored in Andrew Martin’s Business Day feature about the booming pet market. But are the nutrition decisions we make for our animals the right ones? We asked Dr. Tony Buffington, professor of veterinary nutrition at Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center, to respond to a variety of reader questions about pet nutrition. Q. I buy grain-free food for my 5-year-old Labrador retriever mostly to avoid foods with fillers and/or unreliable ingredients. Your thoughts on such a diet? Also, is dog food irradiated in the United States? - JK, Flemington, N.J. A. Pet diets can be made up of a variety of ingredients, including meats and their byproducts, grains of various kinds, various sources of vitamins and minerals and preservatives. What’s important is that a pet’s diet contain everything the pet needs for optimal health — that’s some 44 essential nutrients for dogs and 48 essential nutrients for cats. The term “fillers” means different things to different people. To some it means using air, water or fiber to dilute the amount of other nutrients in the diet. Others think fillers refer…
It is generally accepted that the prevalence of overweight and obese pets has increased in recent years. Excess weight is the most common medical condition in companion animals and has a number of health and wellness implications for both pets and their owners. Certain behaviors predispose dogs to weight gain. In Part 1 of this two-part series, we explore common causes of weight gain in dogs and the consequences of dogs being overweight or obese. In Part 2, we discuss treatment and monitoring strategies. DEFINING OVERWEIGHT AND OBESE Obesity is defined as excessive white adipose tissue.1 Human epidemiologic data show increased morbidity and mortality with increasing body fat mass.2 The most commonly used measure of body fat in people is the body mass index (BMI: weight [kg] divided by height2 [m]). People are defined as Underweight (BMI < 18.5) Normal (BMI = 18.5 to 24.9) Overweight (BMI = 25 to 29.9) Obese (BMI = 30 to 39.9) Extremely obese (BMI ≥ 40).3-6 Individuals who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers and of overall mortality.7-10 Data from companion animals are more limited, and the definition of obesity is more arbitrary. Dogs are overweight…
Studies in obese people demonstrating a significant link between obesity and the development of certain forms of osteoarthritis (OA)—and an improvement in clinical signs with weight loss—have resulted in a popular area of research for the veterinary scientific community. Several previous studies have shown that weight loss can improve lameness in obese dogs with OA. A recent study took a clinically relevant approach, selecting obese, client-owned dogs with OA in one or more limbs and evaluating lameness both subjectively and objectively during a dietary weight-loss program. The 14 dogs included in this study were of varying ages, sexes, and breeds, but all weighed at least 20% more than their ideal body weight and had clinical signs of lameness in one or more limbs with radiographic evidence of hip or elbow OA. Dogs with abnormal blood screening results or that had been treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications within three weeks of the study were excluded. The dogs were weighed and their pelvic circumferences were measured initially and at six follow-up visits throughout the 16-week weight-loss program. Lameness of the most affected limb was evaluated subjectively (numerical rating system and visual analogue scale) and objectively (force plate measurements). Each dog’s caloric intake…
Diabetes is on the rise — but humans aren't the only ones suffering. Diabetes diagnoses are rising at an even faster rate among dogs and cats than their human companions, according to a national analysis of pet health released Tuesday. New Jersey dogs have the sixth-highest rate of diabetes in the nation, and cats have the 10th-highest rate, according to the 2011 "State of Pet Health" report. It is based on data from more than 2.5 million dogs and cats that visited Banfield Pet Hospital facilities in 43 states. There are 19 Banfield hospitals in New Jersey, including Paramus and Secaucus. Diabetes affects about three in 1,000 dogs and 10 in 1,000 cats in New Jersey, according to the report's state data. "This kind of data has never been available before," Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, a veterinarian and chief medical officer for the Banfield Pet Hospital chain, based in Portland, Ore. "We want to share it with professionals and pet owners." The surprisingly high incidence of diabetes, he said, stems in part from rising rates of obesity. "We have increasing obesity in dogs and cats, just like in humans. It's no mystery how that occurs: overfeeding and lack of exercise." Nationally,…
Whether you've made your own assessment or heard it from a friend, the groomer or your veterinarian, it's worth paying attention to your pet's body condition. Regardless of the age of your pet, carrying extra weight can put stress on bones and joints, force the heart and lungs to work harder, and/or put your pet at greater health risk than dogs/cats in lean body condition. Body condition scoring is an evaluation tool, used routinely by veterinarians to assess lean muscle and fat stores in animals. Body condition scores are set on a scale, usually 1 to 5 or 1 to 9, where the low number equates to thin or emaciated and the highest number equates to morbidly obese. With some practice, any pet owner can become good at assigning a body condition score to their pet. Ask about how to get started at your pet's next visit to the veterinarian! Dogs and cats with a body condition of 6 (or greater on a scale of 1-9), or greater than 3 (on a scale of 1-5), might benefit from losing a little weight. Although it's often easier to say than to do, the simplest way to shed pounds is to take…