Tag Archives: obesity

Pet obesity

October 12th is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day in the USA.  Pet obesity is a ‘first world’ problem; I often see dogs in my practice that are overweight or obese.

This handy obesity chart gives you an idea of how to score your dog’s (and cat’s) body condition:

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A vet check is always advisable before starting your dog on a weight loss programme.  In my experience, weight loss isn’t just about dietary changes.  Massage and stretching combined with exercise can help your dog feel  better and move more freely – meaning more calories are burned to assist with any reduction in food intake.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Pet exposure may reduce allergies and obesity

If you need a reason to become a dog lover, how about their ability to help protect kids from allergies and obesity?

A new University of Alberta study showed that babies from families with pets—70 per cent of which were dogs—showed higher levels of two types of microbes associated with lower risks of allergic disease and obesity.

Puppy licking a baby's face

A dog licking a baby’s face. Credit: © Christin Lola / Fotolia

But don’t rush out to adopt a furry friend just yet.

“There’s definitely a critical window of time when gut immunity and microbes co-develop, and when disruptions to the process result in changes to gut immunity,” said Anita Kozyrskyj, a U of A pediatric epidemiologist and one of the world’s leading researchers on gut microbes—microorganisms or bacteria that live in the digestive tracts of humans and animals.

The latest findings from Kozyrskyj and her team’s work on fecal samples collected from infants registered in the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development study build on two decades of research that show children who grow up with dogs have lower rates of asthma.

The theory is that exposure to dirt and bacteria early in life—for example, in a dog’s fur and on its paws—can create early immunity, though researchers aren’t sure whether the effect occurs from bacteria on the furry friends or from human transfer by touching the pets, said Kozyrskyj.

Her team of 12, including study co-author and U of A post-doctoral fellow Hein Min Tun, take the science one step closer to understanding the connection by identifying that exposure to pets in the womb or up to three months after birth increases the abundance of two bacteria, Ruminococcus and Oscillospira, which have been linked with reduced childhood allergies and obesity, respectively.

The abundance of these two bacteria were increased twofold when there was a pet in the house,” said Kozyrskyj, adding that the pet exposure was shown to affect the gut microbiome indirectly—from dog to mother to unborn baby—during pregnancy as well as during the first three months of the baby’s life. In other words, even if the dog had been given away for adoption just before the woman gave birth, the healthy microbiome exchange could still take place.

The study also showed that the immunity-boosting exchange occurred even in three birth scenarios known for reducing immunity, as shown in Kozyrskyj’s previous work: C-section versus vaginal delivery, antibiotics during birth and lack of breastfeeding.

What’s more, Kozyrskyj’s study suggested that the presence of pets in the house reduced the likelihood of the transmission of vaginal GBS (group B Strep) during birth, which causes pneumonia in newborns and is prevented by giving mothers antibiotics during delivery.

It’s far too early to predict how this finding will play out in the future, but Kozyrskyj doesn’t rule out the concept of a “dog in a pill” as a preventive tool for allergies and obesity.

“It’s not far-fetched that the pharmaceutical industry will try to create a supplement of these microbiomes, much like was done with probiotics,” she said.

The study, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Allergy, Genes and Environment Network (AllerGen NCE), was published in the journal Microbiome, along with an editorial in Nature.

Source:  University of Alberta media release

Senior adults see benefits from dog ownership

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USA) recommends that adults of all ages should engage in 150 or more minutes of moderate physical activity per week. Among adults 60 years of age or more, walking is the most common form of leisure-time physical activity because it is self-paced, low impact and does not require equipment.

Johnson and Dog - senior dogs

Rebecca Johnson and her team determined that older adults who also are pet owners benefit from the bonds they form with their canine companions. Photo by University of Missouri

Researchers at the University of Missouri have determined that older adults who also are pet owners benefit from the bonds they form with their canine companions. Dog walking is associated with lower body mass index, fewer doctor visits, more frequent exercise and an increase in social benefits for seniors.

“Our study explored the associations between dog ownership and pet bonding with walking behavior and health outcomes in older adults,” said Rebecca Johnson, a professor at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, and the Millsap Professor of Gerontological Nursing in the Sinclair School of Nursing. “This study provides evidence for the association between dog walking and physical health using a large, nationally representative sample.”

The study analyzed 2012 data from the Health and Retirement study sponsored by the National Institute on Aging and the Social Security Administration. The study included data about human-animal interactions, physical activity, frequency of doctor visits and health outcomes of the participants.

“Our results showed that dog ownership and walking were related to increases in physical health among older adults,” said Johnson, who also serves as director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at MU. “These results can provide the basis for medical professionals to recommend pet ownership for older adults and can be translated into reduced health care expenditures for the aging population.”

Results from the study also indicated that people with higher degrees of pet bonding were more likely to walk their dogs and to spend more time walking their dogs each time than those who reported weaker bonds. Additionally, the study showed that pet walking offers a means to socialize with pet owners and others.

Retirement communities also could be encouraged to incorporate more pet-friendly policies such as including dog walking trails and dog exercise areas so that their residents could have access to the health benefits, Johnson said.

Source:  University of Missouri media release

One in four dogs at Crufts is overweight

One in four dogs competing in the world’s largest canine show (Crufts) is overweight, despite the perception that entrants are supposed to represent ideal specimens of their breed, reveals research published online in Veterinary Record.

The widespread dissemination of show dog images online may be ‘normalising’ obesity in dogs, now recognised to be a common canine disorder, say the researchers.

As in people, obesity in dogs has been linked to orthopaedic problems, diabetes, respiratory disease, and certain types of cancer. It also affects both the quality and length of a dog’s life.

The researchers base their findings on 1120 online images of dogs from 28 breeds—half of which are prone to obesity–that had appeared at Crufts. This is the UK’s national dog show, and the largest of its kind in the world.

Only adult dogs that had been placed between first and fifth in their class between 2001 and 2013 were included in the study.

The images were coded and anonymised, and 960 were suitable for assessment. A second person then graded the body condition of each dog in one sitting, using a previously validated method.

Three out of four (708; 74%) of the show dogs were in ideal condition, and none was overweight. But one in four (252; 26%) was overweight.

Pugs, basset hounds, and Labrador retrievers were the breeds most likely to be assessed as being overweight. Dogs were overweight in 80% of the pug images, and in around two thirds of the basset hound (68%) and Labrador (63%) images.

The researchers say Labradors were one breed that was more likely to be assessed as overweight.   (Photo by pedigreelabrador.co.uk)

The researchers say Labradors were one breed that was more likely to be assessed as overweight. (Photo by http://www.pedigreelabrador.co.uk)

The three breeds with the highest prevalence of overweight among the online images are prone to excess weight. But, given that pugs were originally bred to be a companion dog, while hounds and Labradors were bred, respectively, for hunting and fieldwork, being overweight would not be advantageous, say the researchers.

Standard poodles, border terriers, Rhodesian ridgebacks, Hungarian vizlas and Dobermanns were the least likely breeds to be overweight.

The researchers point out that the prevalence of overweight among the show dogs was less than that reported generally for pet dogs in the UK. But the fact that “a quarter were above ideal weight is still a cause for concern,” they write.

“These dogs showcase the ideal characteristics of the pedigree breed, and there is a danger that widespread media exposure might adversely influence owner perception of optimal body shape,” they say.

The Kennel Club has recently introduced changes in policy for judging criteria, to emphasise characteristics that promote good health in dogs, say the researchers.

But breed standards of optimal condition should be reinforced for competition, to ensure consistency, they say, concluding: “Further effort is now required to educate owners, breeders and show judges so that they can all better recognise overweight condition, thus helping to prevent the development of obesity.”

Source:  EurekAlert! media release

The benefits of being dog-friendly (Christchurch take note)

Here’s more research that backs up my position on dogs and the Christchurch rebuild.  Hopefully the CCDU and CERA will take note…

A study from the University of Liverpool has recommended investing in dog owner education and facilities as a strategy to target physical inactivity and problems such as obesity in both people and their pets.

The research team reviewed scientific papers published since 1990 (31 studies from the UK, USA, Australia and Japan) and found that access to dog-friendly walking environments and better education about dogs’ physical needs could all motivate people to get out and take more exercise with their pets.

An exercised dog is a healthy one, less likely to be obese, and who is less likely to develop behavioural problems like aggression and excessive barking. 

Among the most common findings of all studies was that dog owners have a varied understanding of how much exercise their dog needs. This affected how much they took their dog for a walk; something that could be addressed with education programs.

People without access to high quality local areas that support dog walking, for example parks where dogs are allowed off-leash and poo-disposal facilities are provided, were less likely to walk with their dog and missed out on the associated health benefits.

There are a large number of reasons why people do or don’t walk their dog and it is worth considering how we can address this when designing strategies for reducing obesity, or when planning urban areas and public open space. Not being able to let their dog off the leash is a particular put-off,” said Dr Carri Westgarth, co-author of the study.

Study authors Dr Carri Westgarth and Dr Hayley Christian take an off-lead walk (photo courtesy of University of Liverpool)

Study authors Dr Carri Westgarth and Dr Hayley Christian take an off-lead walk (photo courtesy of University of Liverpool)

The study also found that some people are worried about their dogs’ behaviour and may be less likely to take it out to the park – potentially out of embarrassment or worry about how it might act – but lack of walks may also be causing this bad behaviour, due to boredom, frustration or lack of socialisation.”

When I submitted to the CCDU in November 2012, I made the point that by having greater accessibility, owners have more opportunity to take dogs out – and that increases opportunity not only for exercise but also socialisation.   We want good ownership to be more visible in our communities – thus making it the norm.  Poor ownership would also be more visible – and subject to peer pressure combined with enforcement approaches.

Let’s have a dog-friendly central city with walking accessibility from one end to the other!

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Source:  University of Liverpool media release

 

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Senior pets month

Blog paws seniors

The ‘miracle’ of weight loss

I caught up with an acquaintance this week who had asked me a while ago for a recommendation of a vet who could give her a second opinion on her dog’s heart condition.  Her Chihuahua was on many different medications for heart problems and she was not happy with her health or progress.

So I asked her how things were going…and she told me that she had managed to get her dog off all medications.

The miracle cure?  ‘We’ve taken one kilo (2.2 pounds) off of her’

Wow.  A Chihuahua is a very small dog and so a kilo of extra weight is definitely classed as obesity.  Here’s what an obese Chihuahua looks like:

An obese Chihuahua

An obese Chihuahua

It is in your dog’s best interest to manage their weight and keep it in the healthy range.  This is usually achieved with a combination of exercise and a proper diet.

Obesity shortens lives!