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Our animals are getting fatter, too

posted October 14th, 2013 by
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Did you know there is a National Pet Obesity Awareness Day? I didn’t either. I probably should since I am the proud owner of a pretty plump cat.

It’s no secret that Americans and their pets have been getting bigger in recent years, but  a recent report by Pro Publica reveals that it’s not just domesticated animals with expanding waistlines.

An international team of scientists has found that two dozen animal populations cared for by or living near humans have also been getting fatter over the years.

The study leads you to wonder if diet and lifestyle are really the biggest factors in obesity or whether the increasing number of chemicals found in our air, soil and water play a role as well.

My own cat Floyd is a great example of this problem. A once obese cat, he became diabetic and required insulin shots twice a day. After much research on the dietary needs of cats, I made some switches to how I fed him. He has since been in remission from his diabetes.

But even with quality food that is portioned out each day, he continues to be an overweight cat. I always blamed it on his laziness, but maybe all of the chemicals we put in our water have contributed to his problem as well.

Whatever the cause of obesity in pets, it is serious business that can cause many health problems down the road, as I have learned firsthand.

To learn more about pet obesity prevention or to participate in the 2013 survey, visit

- Lauren Cavagnolo, [email protected]

Arthritis in Our Older Pets

posted January 15th, 2007 by
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By Erin Reed, DVM 15th Street Veterinary Group, Tulsa

How do you feel as the weather gets colder? Do you feel stiff and sore when the temperatures drop? Many of our pets experience the same changes.

As our family pets get older, they also exhibit signs of arthritis. We have to rely on changes that we see, since they are unable to communicate with us. Decreased activity, increased difficulty getting up and down, limping and behavioral changes are some of the signs that are suggestive of arthritis.

Both dogs and cats get degenerative joint disease (DJD, also known as arthritis). There are many factors that predispose an animal to DJD. Genetics, obesity and injury are the most common causes of arthritis.

Genetics play an important role, especially with large breed dogs. When possible, it is recommended to research familial and breed problems before purchasing a puppy. Many breeders have breeding dogs OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) certified to decrease the chance of elbow and hip dysplasia being passed on to their offspring.

Obesity is a significant problem in both dogs and cats. By preventing obesity we are able to decrease a significant amount of wear and tear on the joints, therefore decreasing arthritis as pets age.

Previous injuries can also cause arthritis to occur at an increased rate. Many dogs experience torn cruciate ligaments, intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) and traumatic injuries that lead to arthritis.

There are many signs that suggest a diagnosis of arthritis, but your veterinarian will usually recommend a thorough examination and laboratory work to rule out any metabolic problems that may initially mimic the vague signs of arthritis, such as Hypothyroidism and Addison’s disease. Once a tentative diagnosis of arthritis is determined, trial therapies may be started. Radiographs are needed to definitively diagnose arthritis, but many times a patient’s response to treatment is also used. Radiographs are needed to rule out any other problems, such as infection or tumors.

Treatment of arthritis has many components. Glucosamine-chondroitin is often started at first signs of arthritis or following injury or surgery to decrease arthritis. Glucosamine helps stimulate synovial fluid, slow down destruction and improve healing of the joint’s cartilage. There are both oral and injectable products that can be used.

Many veterinarians recommend weight loss diets and increasing exercise to battle obesity in all stages of arthritis.

As arthritis becomes more pronounced, NSAID’s (non steroidal anti-inflammatories) are often used to help control pain and inflammation. Even though there are many products obtained from drug stores, never administer any medications without checking with your veterinarian. For example, aspirin can cause stomach ulcers and other medications, like ibuprofen cause kidney damage, even at very low doses. Most dogs respond very well to anti-inflamm atories. Each patient’s response will determine if they need to stay on medication daily or if the medicine can be decreased and given when needed. Before starting any ongoing medication, your veterinarian will usually recommend laboratory tests to check kidney and liver function and then repeat this every 6 months.

Seeing our pets get older is difficult, but in many cases there are preventative measures that can be used to improve and lengthen their quality of life.

Story by Erin Reed