Wednesday, 25 January 2017 22:58

Pet Obesity & Pet Dental Care

Written by  Dr. Mindy Cohan
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Listen as Dr. Mindy Cohan talks with Kathy about adopting a pet and holiday safety tips!

People and pets have a lot in common. Unfortunately, both are suffering from an obesity epidemic. In recent years, obesity has been recognized as a human disease. Now, there is discussion in the veterinary community as to whether to classify pet obesity as a disease. If the obesity problem in pets is recognized as a disease, it will help to bring greater awareness to this common problem that affects over 50% of dogs and cats in the U.S.

Many people set new year’s resolutions to make healthier food choices and to exercise more. In order to get the new year off to a good start for your pet, consult your pet’s veterinarian to see if a weight loss plan is needed. Our pet’s need our help in order to succeed in reaching a healthy weight. A veterinarian can make recommendations to help you know what type of food and what amount is best for your pet. Your veterinarian will also decide how much exercise is safe for your pet. Remember, you would not start off running 10 miles daily. Pets that have not had regular exercise need to be slowly introduced to becoming more active.

Taking simple steps such as regular walks and playtime with your dog can make a big difference. Since most cats can’t rely on walks outside to burn more calories, pet parents must think of creative ways to get their feline friends moving. Laser pointers and feather wands are very appealing to cats and a great way to encourage indoor activity. A food dispensing ball is a great way to make your cat’s food last longer while also providing exercise as your cat chases it around the house. The new NoBowl feeding system for cats was designed by a veterinarian and offers many benefits such as weight management, preventing rapid eating followed by vomiting, exercise, and positive mental stimulation for the cat’s overall well being.

Harnesses and Walking Cats

Some cats enjoy being walked on a harness outside.  This is a safe way for them to explore the outdoors and get exercise. Make sure your cat tolerates the harness, put it on at home before feeding.   This will help the cat to have a positive association with the harness.

  • lay harness on floor near food dish
  • lay harness over cat without buckling it and feed treats
  • attach leash to harness and let the cat roam in the house with leash attached, give treats
  • lead the cat around the house with leash attached to harness. Once the cat is used to the harness, venture outside.

Benefits of a Harness

  • Exercise
  • Mental stimulation, less behavioral problems
  • Better sleep at night for cat and owner
  • Bonding time

Excessive treats and table food are often the biggest culprits of weight gain in pets. Decreasing the frequency of treats as well as the quantity is critical for a successful weight loss program. Instead of feeding your dog an entire biscuit, feed just a small piece. Cat treats are fine as a reward, but do not feed them indiscriminately. Avoid feeding your dog from the table. Human table food adds many unaccounted calories to a dog’s daily intake.

Studies have shown that an overweight pet has a significantly shorter life span than a pet at a healthy weight. In addition to not being able to enjoy as many years with your pet, overfeeding is putting your pet at risk for many medical problems such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Heart and respiratory issues
  • Cancer
  • Injury to ligaments
  • Intervertebral disc disease (especially breeds including the Beagle, Dachshund, Corgi)
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure

February is National Pet Dental Health Month

Many dog and cat owners wait until their pet’s breath is offensive before seeking dental care.   Veterinary exams on a biannual or at least yearly basis are very important and should include a thorough oral evaluation.  Pet owners should not be surprised or alarmed if their veterinarian recommends a professional teeth cleaning. A teeth cleaning by a veterinarian will be performed under general anesthesia since we cannot rely on dogs and cats to remain still for the procedure.

Studies show that at least 85% of pets have periodontal disease by three years of age.  The progression of dental disease begins with plaque formation.   Plaque is comprised of saliva and bacteria.  Plaque hardens and becomes tartar, a mineralized, dense material that is beige and visible on the tooth surface.  The bacteria within tartar are harmful and cause damage to the tooth ligament and surrounding bone.   Eventually the tooth will become loose and the bacteria can enter the blood stream, affecting the heart, liver, kidneys and brain.

Signs of dental disease include:

  • bad breath
  • tartar
  • red or swollen gums
  • pain or bleeding when the pet eats or when the mouth is touched
  • decreased appetite or difficulty chewing
  • loose or missing teeth
  • swelling underneath an eye (can indicate a tooth abscess)

While gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums is reversible, periodontal disease is not. To prevent the progression of dental disease, regular home care and periodic professional cleanings are recommended.   Brushing a pet’s teeth on a daily basis is the most effective means of preventing dental disease.  Veterinary brushes and finger brushes are available.  It is very important to use only veterinary toothpaste.   Human toothpaste is not meant to be swallowed and can be harmful to dogs and cats.  

For a video demonstration on brushing your pet’s teeth, please visit

To see which dental products the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) approves, please visit

If your pet shows signs of a dental problem, or you have questions regarding your dog or cat’s oral hygiene, please consult your veterinarian.

Read 10382 times Last modified on Wednesday, 25 January 2017 23:17