They might not understand the aerobics instructions and they can’t use free weights, but it’s possible that our pets may be just as valuable as expensive exercise machines in helping us humans lose weight.
A twelve month study recently completed has shown that exercising with your dog has several positive benefits for both owner and pets. The People and Pets Exercising Together (PPET) study showed people who are trying to lose weight often need a positive support system of friends, co-workers and relatives. Unfortunately, these same people can negatively affect an individual’s exercise plan by sabotage and even negative influences. Exercising with your pet however, brings unique encouragement and fun not seen in other programs.
An owner who desires to lose weight can count on consistent prompting from their canine buddy to exercise. The need for the dog to go outside is a positive influence, encouraging activity. Most owners see their daily walks with the pet as enjoyable and less like exercise. A separate Canadian study showed that dog owners actually averaged 300 minutes per week walking compared to 168 minutes for people without dogs.
Beyond the prompting to exercise, our pets also affect our desire to succeed because of parental pride. Most pet owners consider their dogs and cats to be members of the family and when the pet loses weight as well, you can see the delight in the owner’s eyes.
But, before you rush out to buy a track suit for your four-legged buddy, there are a few considerations to make sure everyone stays healthy and safe.
First, just like you, your pet may not be ready for the Mini-Marathon. Increase the amount of time spent walking gradually. For some very obese dogs, you might begin with simply walking to the end of the block, then gradually working up to longer distances.
It’s also important to realize that your pet will be very excited and not know to take it easy. Every spring, veterinarians see dogs with ruptured cruciate ligaments, painful hips, and other injuries because of over-exertion. Learn your pet’s limits and help him build strength and stamina. Even if your pet is not overweight, strenuous exercise can debilitate any pet not used to the routine
Not all pets are equally suited to the same workout routine. Although all dogs will benefit from daily walks, many breeds won’t make good running partners. Be sure to tailor your exercise plan to your dog’s physical and athletic abilities.
Cats should not be left out of these activities either. Spending 20-30 minutes doing play activities with your kitty can help her lose weight as well. Cat experts recommend using laser pointers to increase activity or even wearing a long “tail” while you do your housework. As you move through your home, the cat can actively “hunt” and pounce on the tail. Other suggestions include allowing the cat to search/hunt for her food by placing multiple bowls around the house in high and low places.
Don’t forget the appropriate diet! For overweight pets, a light diet or even a prescription reducing diet from your veterinarian might be appropriate. But, if your canine athlete is already in peak condition, he may actually need a performance diet to help him meet his caloric needs as you increase his exercise regimen.
Be sure to get your pet a good physical exam before starting any weight loss or exercise program. Your veterinarian can help you find the right rate of weight loss for your pet and will have additional ideas on exercise routines and proper diets.
Cultural changes have led to a significant increase in obesity among both humans and pets. Although the study was small, the PPET study effectively showed that our pets can be supportive exercise partners. This teamwork helped both pets and people lose weight and cemented yet another layer into the human-animal bond. More
Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Texas A&M University
Mac is a typical rambunctious pup that stole the heart of Eleanor Schmidt. His long flowing black and tan hair across his lean Dachshund body reminded her of a dog she had more than 70 years prior. Eleanor knew she was taking a risk that Mac might outlive her, but his big brown eyes and puppy antics quickly dismissed her concerns about age. Thankfully, Eleanor was proactive and made arrangements for the Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center to care for Mac in the event she couldn’t.
Pets provide a great deal of affection and companionship for many families, including a large number of senior citizens. With families and relatives spread out across the country, the loyal dog or affectionate cat often becomes a best friend for many older people. But, some individuals avoid keeping any sort of pet over real concerns of what to do if they can no longer care for the animal.
The Stevenson Companion Animal Life Care Center (“The Center”) was started to help give people peace of mind that someone will be providing for the physical, emotional and medical needs of their pet. In many cases, when an owner can no longer provide care for a dog or cat, the animal is placed with a family member who may not have the means (or the desire) to continue providing the needed attention. In other situations, the pets end up in rescues or shelters, where, despite the best of intentions, adjusting to the new circumstances might be difficult.
As a resident of the Stevenson Center, Mac lives with about 35 other dogs and cats in spacious surroundings, including 5 outdoor yards where he can play. All of the animals are allowed to interact with each other, but also have their own private areas during quiet times. The feline residents are allowed to interact at their discretion, but dogs are kept out of the “cat only” rooms!
The Center began at the suggestion of Dr. E.W. Ellet, a former head of the Small Animal Clinic at Texas A&M University. Funded by generous donations from the Luse Foundation and Ms. Madlin Stevenson, the Center was able to open its door in 1993 and has the capability of housing about 60 dogs, cats and even birds. In a separate area, a barn completed in 2003 houses “Rusty”, a llama originally owned by Ms. Stevenson. Rusty arrived at the center with 4 cats, 7 dogs and a pony in 2000, the year Ms. Stevenson passed away.
None of the residents of the Stevenson Center will ever lack for medical care or personal attention. All of the pets are seen by veterinarians at the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital and students of the college actually live at the center to provide 24 hour company to these wonderful animals. From grooming to play time to special diets, each pet receives the perfect amount of attention to insure his or her comfort.
Pet owners who wish to enroll their pets at the center must first pay an enrollment fee of $1,000 to secure a place in the home. Then, depending on the age of the owner, a minimum endowment ranging from $50,000 to more than $200,000 for some large animals must be provided through a trust, will or even paid in full up front.
Some people might question the seemingly high costs, but considering that the pets will have life-long care and the bequests allow the Center to function as a privately funded operation, to many loving pet owners, the peace of mind is priceless. Already, almost 400 animals are waiting for future enrollment at this marvelous facility.
Thinking about what will happen to your pets if you are no longer able to provide for their needs is not an easy thing to do. But, by being proactive, you can insure that your wishes for your pet’s care will be followed. Although the Stevenson Center is unique, there are plans for other similar facilities in the works across the country. More
Lights, decorations, good food… every year, as we celebrate the holidays, we fill our homes with seasonal cheer for ourselves and our families. However, what may seem beautiful and harmless to us may pose hidden dangers to our pets. Don’t let an emergency spoil the festivities! Below are some common holiday hazards for dogs and cats and ways to prevent them.
The following can be toxic to pets: chocolate, raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, garlic, onion, alcohol, caffeinated beverages, bread dough, and sugar-free candy and gum containing the artificial sweetener xylitol.
Despite tradition, bones should never be given to pets. Even beef, ham, and other “regular” foods that are not considered toxic can cause illness in pets. If your pet is a moocher, keep a saucer of his regular treats on the table to offer when he asks. He probably won’t know the difference!
Even a pet-safe treat can cause stomach upset if it is new to your pet. Offer only one of these at a time (ideally, separated by a few days). If your pet becomes ill after eating a holiday treat, it will be easier to trace the source and discontinue it. Also, check new toys for sharp edges, pieces that can be chewed off, or other potential hazards.
Hazardous plants include mistletoe, some evergreens (including some types of pine), and holly bushes and berries. Try to keep these plants away from pets, or at least supervise pets when dangerous plants are nearby.
Tinsel, tree ornaments, ribbons, string, and garlands are some items that can be dangerous if eaten by pets. Keep these items away from pets — especially when pets are unattended. Don’t forget to cover any electrical cords or keep them out of reach.
FIRE AND CARBON MONOXIDE
Monitor pets near fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, candles, and portable heaters. Also, don’t forget to check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they are functioning properly. Space heaters, furnaces, and idling cars (in a garage) can increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in pets and humans.
Monitor your pets when they are around your holiday tree. Pets may eat the needles (even from artificial trees) or drink water from the base of the tree, which can be toxic (especially if there are preservatives in it). Keep electrical cords and decorative lights out of reach, too.
In many cases, if your pet has eaten or drunk something toxic, warning signs will include gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Other signs may include tiredness and lack of appetite, especially in cats that have eaten lilies. If your pet shows any of these signs, or if you think he or she has eaten something dangerous but is not showing any signs yet, please call us right away. Treating your pet as soon as possible is essential!
We will be glad to answer any questions you have about your pet’s health. Let’s work together to make sure your entire family has a happy, healthy holiday season! More
Take a stroll down the pet food aisle of your favorite store and your eyes will take in every imaginable color, a few cartoon characters and a lot of claims stating the food is “improved”, “natural” or even “organic”. It’s truly a marketing bonanza! More than 3,000 brands of pet food fill the aisles and pet owners will spend about $18 billion to feed their pets each and every year.
But, high profile recalls, sick pets and corporate mistrust has moved a small number of pet owners to consider making their pets’ food at home, instead of buying it in a bag. An Internet search for “raw diets” brings up almost 3 million different results, many of which claim that this sort of food is nutritionally superior to the commercially prepared diets.
The raw food diet trend began in 1993 with the publication of “Give Your Dog A Bone” written by Australian veterinarian, Dr. Ian Billinghurst. Building on the close evolutionary relationship between our dogs and their wolf cousins, Dr. Billinghurst claims that in domesticating the dog we “changed the wolf’s appearance and mind…but not the basic internal workings or physiology”. Many pet owners agree with this theory and have flocked to a raw meat type of diet for their animals.
Proponents of raw diets claim the foods give their pets more energy, provide more nutrition and overall, their dogs and cats are healthier than animals fed a typical dry or commercial diet. During the massive pet food recall of 2007, the number of people opting for homemade diets increased dramatically and many have continued to prepare their pet’s food at home.
Adding more fuel to the fire, advocates of homemade foods persist in claims that commercial diets, especially those with a high percentage of grain, are actually shortening the life span of our animals.
How many of these arguments are valid and which ones lack evidence?
First, it is important to understand that all of the reports of increased energy and healthier pets are simply observations by the owners. Actual scientific and verifiable evidence supporting these claims is non-existent. To be fair, there is no evidence to refute these statements either.
Many of Dr. Billinghurst’s basic arguments are answered by veterinarians, both in the clinic with clients and in the media. For example, the claim that dogs must eat meat because they are related to wolves is discussed and usually dismissed. As a well respected blog, Skeptvet.com, states dogs are omnivores and will often eat a wide variety, including some fruits and vegetables. Not to mention that there has been more than 100,000 years of divergence between dogs and wolves as well as intense selective breeding, especially in the last 3,000 years.
Another claim that is used by raw food advocates is that dogs and cats can’t digest grains, especially the corn and wheat ingredients found in many commercial diets. This contention is also refuted by scientific studies showing dogs use these cooked grains as effectively as other carbohydrate sources.
But, perhaps the biggest reason many pet owners opt for preparing their pets’ meals is a mistrust of the corporations formulating the dry foods. Recalls due to contamination, excessive or deficient nutrients and bacterial contamination seem all too commonplace. Although these recalls have happened occasionally and pets have become sick, the reality of the situation is that the vast majority of commercial diets are not only safe for our pets, they also provide an optimum level of nutrition, helping out pets live full and healthy lives.
So, is one type of diet actually better than another?
The answer to that question is complex and should always involve a discussion with your veterinarian. Raw diets, for all their purported benefits, do come with significant risks. Bacterial contamination is more prevalent with these diets and the potential for an imbalance of nutrients is very high. If you do choose to use a homemade or raw diet, talk with your veterinarian and use an approved veterinary nutritional site, like BalanceIt.com to insure that your pet does benefit from your extra work.
Also, remember that many pet food companies have decades of experience, research and testing proving the effectiveness and safety of their diets. It’s true that occasional recalls have happened, but these unfortunate events have also helped determine how to effectively handle this sort of crisis. Lessons learned from past situations will help to prevent future issues.
Looking forward, science may give us an answer to this on-going and very passionate debate. But, for now, your best source of advice is not an online forum or manufacturer’s website with products to sell, but rather you should put your trust in your veterinarian. More
The fall colors are at there peak today and most of us are looking forward to the Halloween festivities this weekend, but our pets can truly be “spooked” by all of the noises and costumes. We hope you have a wonderful time this weekend, but remember Halloween is a holiday with many potential dangers for our dogs and cats.
First let’s consider the ghost and goblin visits on Halloween eve. The excitement of the day may be too much for even the best-behaved dog. Constant visitors to the door as well as the spooky sights and sounds may cause some pets to become fearful. Costumes on people can be scary to pets. Masks, large hats, and other costume accessories can confuse pets and may even trigger territorial instincts. It is not unusual for pets to act protective or be fearful of people in costumes, even if they normally are very social with that person. Your pet could run away and become injured in a variety of ways. Consider allowing your dog or cat to spend the evening in his own special place inside with special treats, safe and secure from the goblins. Even if you have a fenced yard, Halloween is definitely not a good night for your dog to be outside without supervision and restraint. If you can’t keep your cat indoors, considering a boarding facility or your family veterinarian. Remember, you are responsible for controlling your pet and insuring that he does not bite any of the neighborhood ghosts.
Judging by the pet pictures we get this time of year, many of our clients enjoy dressing their four-legged friends up for the holiday. Dressing up is fun for everyone, but may not be very fun for our pets. If your pet tolerates a costume, there are some things to keep in mind. Your pet must be comfortable at all times. Avoid any costumes that use rubber bands or anything that might constrict circulation or breathing. Likewise, avoid costumes with toxic paints or dyes. Your pet’s costume should be inedible. If your pet appears uncomfortable in any way, allow him to dress up in his “birthday suit”.
The two biggest concerns for pets during the holiday are injuries and poisonings. Some Halloween decorations can be unsafe. Fake cobwebs or anything resembling a string can be tempting to cats, leading to a foreign body obstruction. Candles inside of pumpkins are easily knocked over, burning your pet or even starting a fire. Although the threat is probably minimal, many people are concerned about black cats during this time of year. It might be wise to keep all cats indoors during this holiday.
Keep your pet away from the Halloween candy. Chocolate can be toxic to pets and even small amounts can cause heart problems and vomiting. Lollipop sticks and foil wrappers can become lodged in your pet’s digestive tract, causing painful obstructions. Low carbohydrate, sugar free, diabetic-friendly candy or gum that is sweetened with Xylitol can cause low blood sugar in dogs and has been implicated in liver failure as well. More