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The Home Vet of Boulder:Pet Weight and Health

Pet Weight and Health

Many owners don’t think much about their pet’s weight; however, obesity in pets can lead to many of the same health issues that we see in overweight people. Over the years, the extra pounds can even shorten your pet’s life!

A recent study showed that “ideal weight” labradors lived an average of 2 years longer than their overweight counterparts. Also, overweight pets often suffer from health problems that degrade their quality of life in their later years.

Health Problems:

There are many health problems associated with a pet being overweight. These problems, ranging from minor pain to life-threatening illnesses, can be seen in dogs, cats, small mammals and even birds:

Arthritis: Your pet’s body size can “weigh” heavily on their joints and spine. Over time this extra pressure can lead to the inflammation and bony changes known as arthritis. Arthritic joints cause chronic pain and may result in your pet “slowing down” before their time. It can also create a need for daily medication to lessen the pain.

Lethargy: Heavy pets may have a significantly lower tolerance for exercise, resulting in general lethargy. This lethargy may simply be the result of your pet being “out of shape”, or may be due to a larger health problem brought on by excess weight. In any case, the end result may mean that your pet does not have the energy to enjoy its life to the fullest.

Diabetes: Just as with people, overweight pets are at a higher risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes is frighteningly common in overweight cats, but can also be diagnosed in dogs and other pets. Once diagnosed, diabetes can be hard to regulate and manage, requiring daily medication and frequent veterinary visits.

Heart Disease: Being overweight puts a lot of unnecessary strain on an animal’s heart. All that extra body mass means that the heart is pumping harder and more often than it was designed to. Over time, this extra work can damage the heart and ultimately lead to heart failure.

Clogged Arteries: Overweight pets can suffer from clogged arteries, just as their owners can. While it is not tremendously common in dogs and cats (because they don’t live long enough for the plaque to build up) it is very common in pet birds. Clogged, thickened arteries (arteriosclerosis) is usually caused by years of eating fatty foods (such as seeds and nuts), being sedentary and being overweight. As with humans, arterial sclerosis can lead to heart disease or even stroke.

Knowing the dangers that being overweight presents, it is obvious that being at a healthy weight is as important for pets as it is for people. Luckily, the keys to a healthy weight are the same for pets as for people: health, exercise, and diet.

Helping Your Pet Lose Weight

While losing weight is never easy, it is not impossible, even for you pets. Having a plan and sticking to it is key, and having medical support on your side can go a long way towards helping you reach your goal.

The steps to pet weight loss are the same for pets as for people: medical monitoring, healthy diet, exercise and realistic goals.

The Keys to Weight Loss:

Medical Monitoring: Before one begins any major weight loss plan, it is important to consult with a doctor. In the case of your pet, a visit to a veterinarian is in order. A thorough physical will help assess your pet’s general health, and a blood test may help rule out any hidden ailments which may either be at the root of your pet’s weight problem, or may make diet and exercise unsafe.

Your veterinarian can also help you set up a healthy diet plan for your pet, as well as reasonable exercise and weight loss goals. Regular trips to the veterinary hospital for weigh ins can help you monitor your pet’s weight loss while providing encouragement and support.

Healthy Diet: Obviously excessive caloric intake is at the root of most weight problems. As such, reducing calories is key to pet weight loss.

Monitoring your pet’s food intake is vital for any weight loss plan. It is normally recommended that you feed your pet a measured amount twice daily. This way, you know exactly how much food your pet is getting per day, while splitting the feedings allows your pet to utilize the calories more evenly throughout the day.

When helping a pet lose weight, most owners chose to start with store-bought low-calorie foods. This, along with exercise, may be enough to get your pet on the right track. Often, however, owners find that store bought foods don’t help enough. In this case, a prescription weight loss diet may be necessary.The Home Vet of Boulder can prescribe special diets to help your dog or cat lose weight.

Exercise- Exercise burns calories and helps get the metabolism burning calories faster. For sedentary pets, it is important that an exercise program start slowly. Begin with short walks or exercise periods and increase over a matter of weeks and months.

Again, consultation with a veterinarian is important. A veterinarian can help create a realistic and safe exercise plan that, along with a good diet, can help your pet lose weight, become fit and help it stay healthy.

Realistic Goals: It is important that owners have realistic goals when trying to help their pet lose weight. For instance, a small dog who is overweight at 20lbs may only lose a few ounces per month, whereas a giant-breed dog may lose 2 pounds in that same time span.


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The Home Vet of Boulder:HOLIDAY PET HAZARDS

HOLIDAY PET HAZARDS

The Home Vet of Boulder wants you and your pets to have a safe and happy holiday. Here are few suggestions to help you avoid the common problems we encounter during the holidays.

DECORATIONS

Ribbon, tinsel, ornaments and gifts may be enticing to animals, but they can become ill if they ingest them. Keep all decorations on the upper 2/3 of the Christmas tree and pick up small décor from the ground.

Mistletoe, Holly and Amaryllis (bulbs)and ALL LILIES can all be highly toxic. Seek veterinary consultation immediately if your pet ingests any of these.

Poinsettias have received bad publicity as being highly toxic. They are actually not truly poisonous yet their milky sap can cause gastric upset.

Burning candles can injure pets. Keep them away from anywhere your jumping cat can reach!

Christmas Tree Secure the tree! Cats have been known to topple the tree resulting in injury to your pet or your home.

Electrical/extension cords can cause electrical burns or electrocution. Be sure you have cords secured and out of the way

FOOD

Chocolate can be very toxic or even fatal to animals. Seek veterinary consultation immediately if your pet ingests chocolate.

Bones from your holiday dinner should never be given to your pet; they can splinter or break sending shards down the digestive tract, which may result in internal injury and hospitalization.

Overindulgence When faced with rich foods that they are not accustomed to, dogs and even cats become prone to vomiting, diarrhea or even a condition called pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreatitis is extremely dangerous and usually requires an extended hospital stay. It is definitely more prevalent around the holidays thanks to the abundance of rich foods.

Trash Many aching digestive tracts come from a pet foraging in the trash for holiday leftovers!

WATER

Make sure your pet has a large bowl of fresh water. Thirst animals may resort to drinking from the toilet or water under the Christmas tree. Both can contain chemicals and/or preservatives, which cause gastric upset.

TRAVELING

Before traveling or kenneling, check that your pets have all required vaccinations and health papers. If they are on medications or a special diet, have enough to last through the trip.

STRESS

The chaos of the holidays can leave some pets confused. Be considerate and set aside a special quiet place with a blanket and fresh water where your pet can seek solitude when the festivities become stressful. Also, watch for open doors and sneaky, scared pets. Make sure they have collars and tags on in case of escape!

PETS AS GIFTS

A cuddly puppy or kitten may seem the “purr-fect” gift, but unfortunately after the holiday season animal shelters are crowded with these surprise presents. Owning a pet is a life-long commitment that not everyone can make. Instead, opt for a stuffed animal toy, pet supplies or an animal ornament.


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The Home Vet of Boulder:Have you ever considered a veterinary house call?

The Home Vet of Boulder: Have you ever considered a veterinary house call?

It is an affordable option! And it makes perfect sense for many pets. In my practice a basic housecall fee is $60 and an examination fee ranges from $10-$20. If I see multiple animals only additional exam fees apply.

Cats especially dislike car rides and foreign environments. Many dogs have fear or aggression issues or are old, or just would rather be on their home turf. Humans like the convienece and kids can watch and be involved.

Most procedures can be done in your homne except for x-rays and major surgeries.

Exams, vaccinations, blood work, fecal tests, illness work ups, minor surgical procedures, biopsies/aspirates, acupuncture and euthanasia are some of the most common procedures performed in the home.

Some example home visits include:

  • I have several cats in my Boulder Practice who were just not feeling right. Blood work revealed that they had kidney disease and they are now being treated with fluids, proper diet and medication. The owners are happy and their kitties are “back to normal”.
  • A dog in Longmont has recurring episodes of old dog vestibular disease. The owner calls me regularly when incidents occur and she is concerned. We are in the process of working up this sweet pug.
  • A 21-year-old cat in Louisville was practically unable to walk. She was very weak and had been acting strangely for sometime. She was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. Now she takes 1 pill-a-day and acts as if she is 10-years-old.
  • Finally, an older 95 lb dog in Broomfield with many body lumps was having a more difficult time taking walks with his owner. We did a small blood test and found he is hypothyroid. He is now being treated for his pain and thyroid. He is now swimming, walking his regular walks and losing weight.

Overall mobile veterinary services can be a great fit for many families – providing cost-effective, great care with less stress for your animals.


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The Home Vet of Boulder:Pet Euthanaisa in your Home. Is it for you?

The Home Vet of Boulder: Pet Euthanaisa in your Home. Is it for you?

Answers to one of life’s most difficult decisions.

Ideally, our pets would die peacefully in their sleep….I hear this request often. On rare occasions some do, but often our dogs or cats will linger on in old age, with incontinence, unwillingness to eat, kidney failure, dehydration, or the inability to rise or walk around normally. Other illnesses such as cancers or deteriorating conditions are often described by the owner as a “roller coaster”.
Making the decision to gently and peacefully end the suffering of your companion with a house call vet , can be the final act of kindness to a friend who’s brought you years of love and companionship.

What is euthanasia and how is it performed?

Euthanasia means “gentle death”. It is a painless procedure performed by a mobile vet in the safety of your own home. Surrounded by people whom the pet is comfortable, and in any location that you decide. I often enter a home, greet the pet, and let the pet decide where to settle and be relaxed.
After giving the go ahead, I give a small injection (with a very small needle) under the skin behind the neck. This is similar to a vaccination ……most pets feel nothing, some are more content with a treat offered to them at this time. This injection is a sedative that will make the animal fall asleep within 5 to 15 minutes. They then will become unconscious. During this time I like to slowly pet the animal, or give them space with you….depending on their temperament. We talk to them, tell them how much they are loved and truthfully anything that comes to mind. A song, stories of their youth, or many, many thanks for their friendship.
When I am assured that they no longer feel pain, I then give a 2nd injection into the vein (usually in a limb). The onset of this drug is almost immediate.
I will then listen to their heart, check for other vitals and quietly leave the room so that you can say your goodbyes privately.

When should you consider euthanasia?

This is probably the last question you want to think about but is also the MOST important question to answer. My answer is usually this-

  • If your pet has an incurable condition, is visibly suffering, or on the whole, the bad days are outnumbering the good it is time…
  • Discussing with your veterinarian the likely progression of the disease will also help you make an informed decision. For example- kidney failure…. when the cat is hiding, tucked in a ball, unwilling to eat any longer. OR knowing the type of cancer will allow your vet to describe to you how it will progress.
  • If your animal is in pain despite giving him pain medication.
  • If there is no other (reasonable) treatment for this condition. I say reasonable because veterinary medicine has caught up with human medicine in our ability to offer you options. I say to many clients….” Just because we CAN do something, doesn’t mean we should.” It is OK to say, “that is enough for MY dog.”
  • Consider the temperament of your animal, the cost of what is being offered and the likelihood of long-term benefit. What would your pet want?
  • If the particular condition that your pet has is one that will likely create a medical crisis .ie, severe cardiac disease….where in the middle of the night you will have to make an unwanted stressful emergency decision.

Symptoms of a suffering animal include-

  • note- animals will rarely cry in pain unless there is a traumatic event such as being hit by a car.
  • unwillingness to eat or drink
  • hiding in places they don’t usually seek
  • certain postures – cat: a sphinx or meatloaf type of posture with little movement.
  • withdrawn or lethargic, often not wanting the owners attention.
  • ongoing incontinence.
  • unwilling to rise or move about.

Should the owner be present?

Having done euthanasias many times in peoples homes I can definitely say …… If you think you can keep it together during this time, I know that the pet feels safer with you there. In the end you will feel that you have done your best as an owner. I will compassionately talk you through it. If you feel that you would be too emotional (the pets can sense this) I believe it is best for you to say your goodbyes and leave the room. I will do the procedure as if he or she were my own…

I do not think that children under 7 or 8 have a full grasp of us “having a hand” in sending them to a peaceful place, so I usually ask that they not be present.

What do I do with the body?

There are several options available. You may bury them in many locations or we can arrange for cremation of the body. As a house call vet I can take the body when you are ready and arrange either a private cremation or group/scatter cremation.

Documentation and payment

I will ask you to fill out and sign a small form with your pertinent information that allows me to do the euthanasia. Please call me for current rates, as the euthanasia is based on your location, the pets weight and your wishes for cremation.

I realize if you are reading this that you are likely enduring a very difficult time.
If I had to give any advice in closing I would say please make this decision based on YOUR pet, not what your friend experienced or did with their own pet. You know your own animal best and what is right for them.
I would be glad to answer any additional questions if you have any. Please contact me at 303-502-5500. I wish you the best.

Kim Basher, D.V.M.
The Home Vet of Boulder
Boulderhomevet.com