Obesity and Arthritis on the Rise – Is There a Connection?

Obesity is on the rise in dogs and cats. This has been a concern for quite some time. We always have recognized a connection between weight gain and issues with mobility. Studies indicate that most pets have some arthritis by 3-5 years of age. It can be in one or more joints and that can make it difficult for them to be more active. With activity slowing down we then see weight gain on the rise. When a pet becomes less active we need to feed them differently to avoid the weight gain which then predisposes them to more arthritis. This is a very vicious cycle.

What are some things to consider when assessing your pets weight and daily caloric intake? The two things that I encourage people to keep in mind would be can you feel the ripple of the ribs under your finger tips? The second thing to look for is an indentation behind the ribs like a waistline. You do not want to physically see the ribs when they are breathing since that would indicate a need to have your pet gain weight. The February 2019 blog has a body condition chart that you can reference if you like. If you do these simple things with your pet and realize they are heavier than they should be, what should you do now?

I am constantly aware of Bleu, my weimaraner’s weight. I had noticed he was getting heavier as he was aging. I had been feeding him a joint and coat care diet from Royal Canin. The caloric intake per cup was 383 kcal/cup. I decided to switch his formula to the Royal Canin weight care formula and that diet has only 301 kcal/cup. He has now returned to his normal body weight and as winter sets in and activity decreases, I may need to make another adjustment. I would choose to feed him less daily to adjust for the change in activity. A good daily bench mark for volume of food to feed is 1 cup/20 lbs of body weight for a dog and ½ cup/10 lbs body weight for a cat. I realize some diets suggest more but with a pet that is showing weight gain this would be a place to start. If you decide to try a weight loss formula or a reduced fat formula, you must know the kcal/cup number. Without that number, the weight loss product could have more kcal/cup than the food you are currently feeding. There are no standards for how many kcal/cup are in a weight loss food. Therefore, you need to know how many kcal’s you have been feeding daily before you can decide what new diet you should use.

Another factor contributing to our obesity issue in our furry friends is the introduction of people foods and treats. All of these items have calories. Treats and any people foods should be limited to 10% of the calories of their total daily intake. These two charts compare pet treats to us eating donuts. A very good visual based on their smaller body size. How many donuts are your pets eating in a day?

Another recommendation I have is to have a daily treat container. Place the treats that your furry friend gets daily into that container. When the treats are gone everyone in the home knows that they cannot give anymore. Our pets are extremely good at working with each individual in the home to get a little something from everyone. They know who is the easiest to convince to give them a treat or a piece of their dinner.

I realize that everyone that comes into Winterset Veterinary Center and sees Hemingway, our clinic cat, questions how we can talk to them about weight when he is so “fluffy”. Two things that I will mention about Hemingway. First when we realized he was getting heavy we started restricting his food. What happened was he would chew through multiple bags of food and basically had a smorgasbord of options. Then we attempted to keep him on the weight reduction diets and he started having more vomiting episodes. Now we feed him the prescription diet for food sensitivities that does not have a low kilocalorie option. He is now an example of what not to do with your pets weights. I understand how difficult it can be with some pets and changing their eating behaviors and or diets.

I ran across this article about the connection between these two health conditions. I have included the link if you would like to learn more about the statistics that Banfield Pet Hospital is seeing across their network of hospitals nationwide.

http://veterinarynews.dvm360.com/banfield-report-obesity-osteoarthritis-rise-veterinary-patients

It is important that you find ways to show love to your furry friends that does not involve food. They need affection and activity more than they need kilocalories. I was reminded last year at the time of my kidney donation that obesity cannot be defeated by exercise. Obesity is a problem because we in America eat more than we should. We are now doing the same thing to our furry friends and this health concern is affecting their quality of life by making them more prone to osteoarthritis, diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, etc. Does this sound familiar with what human doctors are saying? Enjoy the fall temperatures and get outside and explore Madison County and all it has to offer.

The Impact New Pets Can Have on Home Dynamics

Daily we get questions about situations surrounding the introduction of new pets into homes where other pets currently exist. This seems to be something that is overlooked as a concern for potential disease and behavioral issues of current pets. The most important goal is to protect the pets already in your home. It cannot be underestimated how important it is to keep new pets isolated from existing pets in your home. The new pets can introduce many infections that will put your current pets at risk.

First to remember is that most cat diseases are not a concern for dogs and vice versa. External parasites can be shared amongst dogs and cats. The intestinal parasites of each species are mostly species specific but a few can be transmitted to one another like the tapeworm. Have your pets on flea and tick preventatives before introducing new pets. Take a stool sample in from the new pet to check for intestinal parasites. Have an exam done to reduce the opportunity of lice, skin mites, fungal infections, and other diseases from being introduced to your other pets and yourself.

Second it is important to keep new pets in separate areas away from your current pets until they can be seen by a veterinarian. This prevents potential for diseases to be introduced that would require you to treat the new and current pets in your household. A perfect example is a cute and helpless kitten is brought home and your indoor cat is curious and is allowed to interact with the kitten. A few days later your indoor cat starts sneezing and has mucus in its eyes. The new kitten still does not show any symptoms. Some pet owners do not keep immunizations up to date on indoor cats. That kitten can carry diseases that your indoor cat is susceptible to. Some infections are bacterial and others are viral. The symptoms often present the same but it is difficult to know what caused the disease. When humans show symptoms like sneezing, coughing, nasal drainage, watery eyes our physicians know it could be bacterial, viral, or allergies. Treatment options are varied and some can be difficult to treat.

Something more serious to consider when a new kitten or cat are brought home would be Feline Leukemia(FELV) or Feline Immunodeficiency(FIV) Viruses. These two viruses can be present and they will not show any symptoms. These viruses affect the immune system and are transmitted only through direct contact with body secretions. It can take up to 30 days post exposure for these infections to be detected in a blood test. This can be a challenge since most people want to introduce the new cat to the current cats immediately. This should not be done before testing the new cat for these infections. We have a vaccine for FELV but not one that is readily used for FIV. There are no cures for these infections at this time so once a cat has been infected they remain positive for the duration of their life. A cat can live a normal life with these viruses but they will always be contagious to other cats.

Behaviors can affect the introduction of a new pet into a home. These behaviors can be varied. Some of the behaviors pass quickly and others can become life long. I do not believe there is one way to make these introductions. The most important factor to consider is the safety of the pets and people in the home. If a problem develops it is important to not put yourself at risk by reaching in to separate the pets. Use a loud noise like a kettle being hit by a spoon or compressed air in a can directed at the body of the pets to scare them into scattering. Do not attempt to scold or punish one of the pets since we may do more harm in getting them to accept each other. Pets need to work out their differences without our interference. We are not good at understanding our pets body language and therefore we may punish or scold the wrong pet. Some younger smaller pets are great at instigating the confrontation only to be attacked by the other older or larger pet in the home and we then scold the wrong pet because the smaller younger one appears so helpless. Sounds like something my children would do to get their siblings in trouble. Sometimes it is best to just take a step back and observe the interactions between them. If your pets seem to get along great until you come home each day, then maybe you are interfering more than necessary.

Another frustrating behavior is inappropriate urination that can develop when new pets are introduced. This issue is one of the most common calls we take when dealing with pet behaviors. The first thing to consider is could this pet have a urinary tract infection or some other medical reason for the inappropriate urination. We want to immediately blame the new pet or new environment for the cause but it could be medical. If medical issues are not the cause then we need to quickly seek help to discover the stresses causing this unwanted behavior. The longer this continues the more difficult it can be to stop the problem. This can occur with both dogs and cats.

If you are considering the addition of another pet please make a plan on how to protect your current pets. Nothing is more heart breaking than introducing a new pet and then discovering they had some contagious condition that was passed to your current pets. This happens often within households that do not think through the addition of a new pet. Remember to spay and neuter your pets. Aggression between pets is escalated when intact males or intact females attempt to live together in a home. Pets of the same sex will get along great until both pets reach sexual maturity and then trouble can begin.   A pet that is intact is 3 times more likely to bite. This alone is a great reason to make certain to be a responsible pet owner and have your pets spayed or neutered.

Enjoy your Labor Day Weekend and if you find any stray pets while out enjoying the great outdoors make certain to keep them separated from your furry friends until after they are examined by your veterinarian.

Milestone for the Nielsen’s

This month I am diverting from Veterinary advice and sharing a personal moment that our family experienced in July. Our daughter, Jaclyn, was married to Rich in Omaha. They met the summer after high school graduation. Their relationship survived the distance as Jaclyn attended UNI and Rich ISU. Rich is a medical sales rep and Jaclyn teaches in Omaha Public schools. This wedding was a first for our family of six. It was wonderful to have us all gathered for this event. A number of people had shared that a wedding is even more intense than a high school graduation. It is a whirlwind of emotions and activities. Those people knew what they were talking about.

Jaclyn spoiled us by handling the wedding plans with great efficiency and effectiveness. It was a magical few days celebrating with the family and friends that all gathered to wish this couple well as they began their life as husband and wife. A saying that I love is “The roots of a family tree begin with the love of two hearts.” I have been digging into my family tree in recent years and have discovered a new appreciation for my heritage. The challenges that my ancestors endured to come to America and the great losses they encountered are all a part of my legacy. I now see the continuation of that legacy with Rich and Jaclyn. Instead of a unity candle for their ceremony, Jaclyn asked me for a portion of the fern that was on the altar at our wedding 35 years ago. I repotted a portion of that plant and she then collected soil from Dan’s family Century farm, my family Heritage farm, Rich’s family farm, and our current farm in Madison County. During the ceremony, they added the soil to the fern and watered it, and now will watch it grow over the years. This representation of how we are all connected was very meaningful to me.

In 2017 my parents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. We honored them with a celebration at my country church that just celebrated its 150th anniversary this summer. We have had a family member sitting in the pews of that church for over 100 of those years. My grandmother was confirmed there and my mother and myself were baptized, confirmed, and married there. During this 60th wedding anniversary we had a program. My 3 daughters and my niece modeled wedding dresses from 4 generations. My great grandma was married in 1906, my grandmother in 1932, my mother in 1957, and myself in 1984. What is really exciting to me, is we now have a fifth generation wedding dress with my daughter’s dress. Love this quote, “The roots of our family tree run strong and deep, like our love they never end.”

If you have never dug into your family’s legacy, I would encourage you to find out whatever you can and write it down. The stories of the past connect us to one another in a way that enriches our lives. “Family is like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, but our roots keep us together.”

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