Archive for February, 2016

Don’t Let Winter Weight Gain Get You Down

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

 

Bundled up for Chicago Weather

Bundled up for Chicago Weather

Chicagoland winters bring many things to mind: cold, blustery days, fewer hours of daylight, quick trips in and out of the house, layers upon layers of bulky, figure-camouflaging clothes and, for some, dwindling motivation to exercise and hit the gym (be honest, that New Year’s Resolution has long since fallen by the wayside).  Regrettably, as so many of us are painfully aware, this is the perfect recipe for waistline expansion.  The winter weight struggle can be a yearly battle for many of us.

What many people do not realize is that it can also be a struggle for many of our pets.

What is the correct weight for my pet?

What is the correct weight for my pet?

Our dogs and outdoor cats suffer the most from the cold temperatures and shorter days, which limit their walking and playing time, thus decreasing their daily caloric requirements.  Additionally, shorter daylight hours trigger hormonal changes in pets which act to slow metabolism and conserve calorie expenditure.

Since most owners do not adjust their pets’ diets to compensate for decreased calorie expenditure during the winter months, it is not uncommon for pets to gain weight once the cold strikes.

Pet obesity, a growing problem

American pet obesity statistics closely mirror those of the American human population.  Both have been steadily rising.  A 2014 survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP)  revealed that 52.7% of dogs and 57.9% of cats in the United States are overweight or obese.  This is an alarming statistic considering the health implications that obesity can have on our pets.  Not only can pet obesity increase the risk of arthritis, heart disease, and metabolic diseases, it can also significantly decrease lifespan.

Click here for a chart of ideal weight ranges for your pet. Keep in mind that these are ranges, talk with us about your pet’s ideal actual weight goal.

A 14-year study by Purina determined that dogs fed a calorie-restricted diet outlived their overfed counterparts by 1.8 years.

Additionally, the age at which 50% of the study’s lean-fed dogs required treatment for chronic diseases was 12 years, compared to 9.9 years among the overfed dogs.

These results are staggering.

Simply by feeding our pets less, we have the potential to extend their years of healthy life.  Seems like a no-brainer, right?  Yet, somehow, despite all the evidence supporting a slim physique for our pets, the pet obesity rates continue to climb.

The first step toward change is awareness

Unfortunately, many pet owners do not even realize their pets are overweight.  If owners do not know there is a problem, we are already fighting a losing battle.  So, how do you know if your pet is obese?  A pet’s fitness is graded on a Body Condition Score (BCS) from 1 to 9, with 1 being severely underweight and 9 being morbidly obese.  An animal with an ideal BCS of 4-5 should have a narrowing of the waist when viewed from above, a tight tuck of the abdomen and ribs that can be easily felt but not seen.

Here are pictures of two of our patients the one on the left is a healthy weight and the one on the right is overweight.

 

Healthy weight vs overweight

Healthy weight vs overweight

 

What should I do to make sure my pet is at a healthy weight?

We can help you assess your pet’s BCS when you are in for check-ups and guide you on appropriate weight reduction if indicated.  Some species, like cats, require gradual weight loss to prevent health complications, and some patients have medical causes for their obesity.  Therefore, it is always best to consult with us before pursuing aggressive weight loss diet plans.

Hey, does this thing make my tail look fat?

Hey, does this thing make my tail look fat?

Adjust calories to be consistent with activity

When modifying your pet’s diet, it is best to increase or decrease their caloric intake by 10% at a time.  If no progress is made, further adjustments by 10% increments can be made until the ideal BCS is met.  While your pet may balk at your well-meaning food reduction, do your best to resist their indignation, pleading eyes and noisy protests.  Remember that you are potentially adding years of healthy life by reducing their caloric intake.  Food is not love.  Love is managing food to give them longer lives.

Please talk with any of our doctors, for personalized advice based on your pet’s medical history before pursuing a radical diet change.

Carlson Animal Hospital - Oak Park, IL

Carlson Animal Hospital – Oak Park, IL

 

 

Crate training your dog

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

Why should I crate train my dog?

Benefits of crate training

Benefits of crate training

Crate training benefits you and your dog by creating a safe and designated space for your pet. This space becomes a refuge and a place that a dog instinctively does not soil. This is useful for housebreaking or potty training your puppy or dog. Also, if your dog needs a respite or resting place, their crate can satisfy this need.

Another very useful side benefit for you and for us as Veterinary professionals is that your dog’s crate becomes a place for recuperating from medical procedures,  if ever needed.

Crate training for housebreaking my dog and more

Everyone seems to be on board when using a crate for training a dog to eliminate outside, but it is not uncommon that the crate is then phased out as the dog becomes an adult. We think that there are many great reasons to keep that crate around (despite the aesthetics)!!

If your dog has been raised spending relaxation time in his/her crate then you have created positive feelings about this space. Thus the crate is an oasis or a place to escape if anxious about a new visitor or a loud noise outside. The crate becomes a safe haven and a sanctuary for comfort and a break.  Dogs are den animals by nature. They curl up in tight spaces to rest and escape and feel safe.  A crate can serve to satisfy these instinctual drives.

If you would like some crate training tips, in addition to talking with us, go to this website for some additional ideas: http://www.wikihow.com/Crate-Train-Your-Dog-or-Puppy

Julio relaxing and safe in his crate

Julio relaxing and safe in his crate

Crate training reduces stress and can improve socialization

When a dog is comfortable with its crate during visits to the hospital, groomer, and kennel he or she is more relaxed. These trips are less stressful!  If a crate or cage is a cozy home they will rest more comfortably, sleep at more regular intervals, and have lower rates of stress induced illnesses such as diarrhea. We know these visits can be difficult and want to provide all the comfort we can from the beginning to the end of the visit.

Crates can make hospital visits less stressful

Crates can make hospital visits less stressful

 

Other benefits of crate training

Other reasons to keep the crate around are plenty, for use when:

  • Protecting humans and pets when allergic or fearful company visits.
  • Keeping your dog from workmen and professionals while they are in your home.
  • Making post-surgical healing and confinement much easier.
  • Following doctor advised exercise restriction for an orthopedic or back injury.
  • Feeding an advised prescription diet to only one of multiple dogs in the house.

Is crate training harmful to my dog?

Of course not all dogs do well in crates, so the matter should not be forced if your dog falls into this category.  Please talk to one of us, the CAH doctors, to see if this may be the case for your dog.

Most often these are either adult or adolescent dogs adopted with unknown backgrounds and socialization, or dogs that suffer from an anxiety disorder. Some cases of anxiety in dogs can result in self-inflicted injury while confined. We’ll help you with appropriate crate training and how to proceed for the best outcome – for you and your dog.

There are other options in these cases for providing them a safe haven at home, like on a mat or a rug. And for the dogs that aren’t suffering severe cases of anxiety we can give you tips for how to re-introduce them slowly to a crate as a positive experience.

Traveling with my dog

Additionally, if you ever need to travel with your dog crate training is invaluable. Many public transportation firms – the airlines, railroads, busses – may require crating your dog.

Your continual use of the crate, from puppyhood through adulthood will make traveling easier and more pleasant for your dog. He or she will feel better about the trip because you have provided familiar and safe surroundings.

Airport crate for travel

Airport crate for travel

The American Kennel Club has some excellent safety tips ( http://www.akc.org/dog-owners/responsible-dog-ownership/travel-tips ), including health checks, labeling, ventilation, and supplies for traveling with you dog – in the car or on a plane. This site is a good source for at-home dog information.

We also have a pet resources library with information on crate training, and many more searchable topics, on our website:  http://www.carlsonanimalhospitals.com/pet-resources/pet-care-library.html. Alternatively, you can get to the library from our website by clicking on Pet Resources and then Pet Care Library.

Prioritizing information during your hospital visit

We love meeting new puppies and dogs during their appointments, and there is much information to go over with new dog owners. We prioritize answering your questions about your pet, the newest member of your family. Always know that your questions come first during your visits with us. Crating, socializing, and changes in behavior – we want to answer your questions. We are especially interested in anything that benefits your pet and you.

MOST importantly your pet benefits from being comfortable with a crate while visiting with us, the groomer, and the kennel.  If your pet needs to be confined this will be less stressful for him/her!  If a cage is just part of a cozy home they will rest more comfortably, sleep at more regular intervals, and have lower rates of stress induced illnesses such as diarrhea.

Many times, as your pet’s veterinarian, we are providing instructions for after visit care if your pet is ill or needs continued at-home treatment. We are dedicated to making you as comfortable, and knowledgeable, as possible so you can care for your pet at home. Our experience has shown that completing medical recommendations is much easier if your dog is crate trained and you still have the crate out and in use. Ideally you want to be able to maintain your dog’s normal living conditions while you help him/her get better as quickly as possible. Reintroducing, or even introducing a crate at this time might make recuperation harder on your dog and on you.

Hopefully you can now see the benefits are many, and the risks are none!

Waiting for blood pressure

Waiting for blood pressure

Carlson Animal Hospital - Oak Park, IL

Carlson Animal Hospital – Oak Park, IL