Tag Archives: weight loss

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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Canine cancer: the warning signs and the way to a cure?

According to the Animal Cancer Foundation, one in four dogs will develop cancer in their lifetime.  That’s a pretty scary statistic.  A diagnosis of a malignant cancer for one’s dog is just as traumatic and worrying as a diagnosis of the disease in any member of the family.

Experts in both human and canine cancers agree that we still have much to learn about the types of these diseases and how to treat them.

The National Veterinary Cancer Registry has been launched recently to identify and register pets diagnosed with cancer.  The Registry’s goal is to facilitate and promote medical treatments that lead to advances, higher success rates and eventual cures for cancer in pets and people by matching animals with cancer to clinical trials for new cancer treatments.

NVCR logo

The Registry is a joint venture between the CARE Foundation, Baylor University Medical Center (BUMC) at Dallas and the Texas Veterinary Oncology Group.

Dr Gerald S Post, Founder and President of the Animal Cancer Foundation says there are 10 warning signs of cancer in both dogs and cats.  They are:

1. Swollen lymph nodes: These “glands” are located all throughout the body but are most easily detected behind the jaw or behind the knee. When these lymph nodes are enlarged they can suggest a common form of cancer called lymphoma. A biopsy or cytology of these enlarged lymph nodes can aid in the diagnosis.

2. An enlarging or changing lump: Any lump on a pet that is rapidly growing or changing in texture or shape should have a biopsy. Lumps belong in biopsy jars, not on pets.

3. Abdominal distension: When the “stomach” or belly becomes rapidly enlarged, this may suggest a mass or tumor in the abdomen or it may indicate some bleeding that is occurring in this area. A radiograph or an ultrasound of the abdomen can be very useful.

4. Chronic weight loss: When a pet is losing weight and you have not put your pet on a diet, you should have your pet checked. This sign is not diagnostic for cancer, but can indicate that something is wrong. Many cancer patients have weight loss.

5. Chronic vomiting or diarrhea: Unexplained vomiting or diarrhea should prompt further investigation. Often tumors of the gastrointestinal tract can cause chronic vomiting and/or diarrhea. Radiographs, ultrasound examinations and endoscopy are useful diagnostic tools when this occurs.

6. Unexplained bleeding: Bleeding from the mouth, nose, penis, vagina or gums that is not due to trauma should be examined. Although bleeding disorders do occur in pets, they usually are discovered while pets are young. If unexplained bleeding starts when a pet is old, a thorough search should be undertaken.

7. Cough: A dry, non-productive cough in an older pet should prompt chest radiographs to be taken. This type of cough is the most common sign of lung cancer. Please remember there are many causes of cough in dogs and cats.

8. Lameness: Unexplained lameness especially in large or giant breed dogs is a very common sign of bone cancer. Radiographs of the affected area are useful for detecting cancer of the bone.

9. Straining to urinate: Straining to urinate and blood in the urine usually indicate a common urinary tract infection; if the straining and bleeding are not rapidly controlled with antibiotics or are recurrent, cancer of the bladder may be the underlying cause. Cystoscopy or other techniques that allow a veterinarian to take a biopsy of the bladder are useful and sometimes necessary to establish a definitive diagnosis in these cases.

10. Oral odor: Oral tumors do occur in pets and can cause a pet to change its food preference (i.e. from hard to soft foods) or cause a pet to change the manner in which it chews its food. Many times a foul odor can be detected in pets with oral tumors. A thorough oral examination with radiographs or CT scan, necessitating sedation, is often necessary to determine the cause of the problem.

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!

Watching your dog’s waistline

Body condition score

Take a look at the chart above.  It shows you how to spot ideal body condition on a dog.  Earlier this week, I was speaking with someone and she commented that she felt Daisy was too thin.  In fact, Daisy had just been to the veterinarian for her health check and was declared to be in ideal condition with an excellent body score.

The problem is that the person speaking with me owns several obese and overweight dogs.  She knows her dogs must lose weight, but she has become so accustomed to seeing an overweight dog that a dog in good condition looks too thin to her.

I work with dogs who need to lose weight by recommending exercise programmes combined with making the dog comfortable through massage, acupressure and laser therapies.  Dogs don’t get fat overnight; their weight loss programmes take a bit of time too.

Over these holidays, please don’t overfeed your dog.  And take the time to review the body conditions listed above.  If your dog isn’t in ideal condition, what do you need to do to get them there?

Another reason to keep your dog fit and trim

University of Liverpool researchers have found that obese dogs can experience metabolic syndrome, a condition that describes multiple health issues that occur in the body at the same time.  Obese humans suffer from the same syndrome.

The condition occurs when a number of health problems, such as increased blood glucose and increased cholesterol levels, develop together, with the potential to increase the risk of other diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

In a study of 35 obese dogs, 20% had metabolic syndrome.  These dogs had increased blood insulin which suggests that the pancreas is working harder than normal.  Blood adiponectin, a protein produced by fat cells that helps control sugars and fats, was also at lower levels than normal.

The metabolic abnormalities improved when the dogs successfully lost weight.

The research team admits that they have to study the impacts in more detail to understand the health implications of metabolic syndrome.

However, why wait for more studies?  If your dog is overweight we already know that their quality of life improves with weight loss.

Source: University of Liverpool media release

Quality of life improves when obese dogs shed excess weight

Researchers at the University of Liverpool have published the results of a study into the quality of life of obese dogs in The Veterinary Journal.

The researchers tracked various quality of life indicators with the owners of 50 dogs who were classified as obese.  These dogs were of various breeds and a mixture of males and females.   The same questionnaire was repeated once the dogs went through a weight loss programme (for the dogs that were successful in losing weight, and those that were not).

Photo courtesy of University of Liverpool

The vitality scores for the dogs that lost weight increased and their scores for emotional disturbance and pain decreased. The more body fat that the dogs lost, the greater their improvement in vitality.

Some people may think ‘these results are a no-brainer’ but in veterinary and other clinical medicine fields, the norm is ‘evidence-based medicine.’  That is, practitioners like veterinarians want results from research that is measurable and defensible when applying or recommending treatments.

Since obesity is linked to problems with the heart, arthritis and other conditions, research likes this helps to underpin the importance of the healthy weight message.

The same basic principles for weight loss in dogs apply to humans:  use portion control, increase exercise and activity, and eat healthy foods.