FHO Surgery, 6 Days Post-Op

Well, our very own Tucker is now 6 days post-op, and doing great. For the original story of his surgery, click here.

Tucker received Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO) surgery last Wednesday, May 27th. Post operatively, he received cold laser therapy that day, and twice since. Normally, this surgery takes a long time to recover from, and typically the pet doesn’t even touch their toe to the ground for at least two weeks post-op.

Here is a video of Tucker that we shot today. He’s already close to 50% weight bearing on the leg, and is moving comfortably, and with minimal pain.

The reason for the rapid improvement in this case is probably due to two things:
1.) He’s a small breed dog, and not carrying any extra weight. Overweight dogs do much worse with any orthopedic surgery, and more so with advanced, reconstructive surgery like Tucker received; and
2.) The K-Laser cold therapy laser. Laser therapy, and in particular the high-powered K-Laser Cube 4 that we have – the most powerful laser on the market today – has changed the landscape of veterinary care when it comes to orthopedic and other injuries. What used to take 2 months to heal now takes 2 weeks, and the progress we used to hope for in 2 weeks we’re now seeing in 4-5 days.

Tucker is doing great, and we expect him to continue to improve to full recovery. We’ll post more video in the future as his condition warrants.

Obesity in Cats: Are We To Blame?

Obesity in a catRecent studies of cats in the United States suggest that 30 to 40 per cent of them are overweight or obese. This alarming statistic may be due in part to the significant difference between the diets of even the most healthy domestic cats and those of their feral cousins and wild ancestors.

Many owners, even with the best intentions, may be feeding cats in a way that contributes to weight gain. And the way in which kittens are exposed to different foods may also influence their dietary preferences and eating habits in later life, often in a way that predisposes to obesity.

The majority of cat owners feed either straight dry food, or a combination of both dry and moist food.  A smaller minority use only canned food. There is great variability between one type or brand of dry cat food and another, but it is estimated that a bowl of dry cat food contains 200 or more calories. And unfortunately, cat food bowls are often kept full for ad lib eating throughout the day. (See this for a discussion of free choice feeding.) By contrast, the average mouse or bird in a wild diet contains about 35 calories, and it is estimated that about 8 of these must be eaten daily to stay healthy. That equates to approximately 250 calories per average sized housecat per day.

A full bowl of dry food, replenished two or three times a day, represents a high-calorie high-carbohydrate diet, and although this is a convenient way of feeding for many human owners, it may also be a recipe for feline obesity, particularly in less-active indoor cats who do not burn calories in self-defense and hunting.

Another contributor to cat weight gain is spaying or neutering. Removal of the hormone-producing testicles and ovaries may improve cats’ health in many ways and certainly helps to deal with a potentially exploding animal population, but it reduces your pet’s metabolic rate and allows food to affect weight more directly, as in men and women after andropause and menopause.

It is estimated that food intake should be reduced by 20 to 30 per cent after neutering in order to prevent weight gain. For cats older than 1 year, a heaping bowl of dry food is not a good idea; the amount that you feed your cat should always be measured out and fed twice a day.  Another useful approach is to put the allotment in a plastic food ball, so that the cat expends some calories in getting the food by rolling the ball around to get the food out. This kind of activity may also reduce any tendency to eat out of boredom, especially when the humans are not around.

What cats like to eat is importantly affected by what they are exposed to as kittens. Kittens do not differ much in nutritional requirements from adult cats, and cats are less likely to be picky eaters if they are exposed to different types of food as kittens, although some studies have suggested that the food preferences of kittens are influenced by what their mothers ate when carrying them.

Kittens and cats in general should eat diets that are high in protein, moderate in fat and low in carbohydrate; the main difference between kittens and adult cats is that kittens need more calories per pound, and for that reason do better with kitten foods that are higher in protein and fat. Cats need fatty acids for heart, skin and joint health and to prevent the development of inflammation. Foods that list a high concentration of these are preferable, and fish oils that are high in fatty acids are among the most useful dietary supplements for cats and kittens.

Pet Obesity: How to Make Your Pet Fat

Here at Acupet a good 90% or our clients still feed their pets commercial pet food. While we can make a strong argument that home fixed meals are much better for both dogs and cats, we also understand the reality of life – that most people have neither the time nor the money to feed regular, prepared meals for their pets.

However, people tend to exacerbate the problems they face from using commercially processed foods by then going and feeding their pets incorrectly. The number one thing we see people do wrong when it comes to feeding is to overfeed. And the number one way to overfeed your pet is to free choice feed.

What Is Free Choice Feeding?

Obesity in a pug
Pugs are extremely prone to obesity when fed free choice.

Also known as grazing, free choice feeding is when the pet owner leaves food available in the food bowl 24/7. It gives your dog or cat access to go eat as much as she wants, whenever she wants. Essentially, it’s no different than simply cutting the top off of a bag of food and putting the whole bag on the floor.

And much like grazing, it will make your pet look like a cow. I have no hard numbers to substantiate this, but from casual observation I can guarantee that at least 80% of animals that are free choice fed – and that’s dogs and cats alike – will be significantly overweight by the age of 5. By significantly I mean at least 20%.

So your sweet little Shih Tsu that should weigh 15 pounds and is now 19 pounds? That doesn’t sound like much, but that extra 4 pounds means your pet is 27% overweight.

And the problem doesn’t stop there. Animals that are free choice fed almost always suffer from what I call weight creep. That means that at their annual physical their weight creeps up a little each year. And the number I tend to see is about 5%. So our cute little 19 pound Shih Tzu from above? Next year she’s likely to be 20#. And the next year? 21.5 pounds. And the next year 23#.

And before you know it, you have a 10 year old dog that’s about 70% overweight. And most owners never notice it because the weight comes on insidiously, and not all at once. It’s very hard to notice when you see your pet every day. And then before you know it, you have a 10 year old dog that’s used to eating whatever she wants, whenever she wants, and getting the weight off is a real challenge.

How to Avoid Obesity in Your Pet

If you’re one of the many, many people who still feed their pet dry commercial food, we recommend discrete feedings twice a day. What we mean by discrete is that the food goes down at exactly the same time twice each day, and stays down for a specific length of time.

Our general guidelines for dry food feeding is to give ¼ cup of dry food for every 10 pounds of body weight, twice daily. (So a 10 pound poodle gets ¼ cup twice a day, while a 60 pound golden retriever gets 1.5 cups twice a day. This is a VERY rough guide, and you should adjust it up or down based on your pet and the food you feed. Your vet can help you with this. But feeding discretely and measuring the food is the first step to accomplishing calorie control.) Put the food down at the scheduled time and then just walk away. Don’t watch your dog or cat eat, and definitely do NOT try to coax her if she won’t eat. Just feed and walk away. Then come back 30 minutes later and take the food up.

If your pet doesn’t eat her food in the morning, she gets exactly the same amount in the evening at the given time, and for exactly 30 minutes. No more. If your pet is used to grazing it may take her a few days to register the signal that “I’d better eat when the food’s down or I’m not going to get to eat.” But trust us, they always get the signal. And once they do you’ll be well on your way to controlling your pet and her eating habits instead of allowing her to control you. And her health will improve dramatically as you’ll finally be able to start controlling her weight.

How Treats, Scraps and Snacks Make Our Pets Fat

An obese labrador dogIt took me 25 years, but I’ve finally cracked the code as to why our pets are so fat: it’s all us guys’ fault. Really, I’m not joking. Time and again I encounter overweight dogs and when I inquire as to the feeding habits it turns out that it’s the husband in the household (by their own admission) who sneaks all the treats and table scraps to the pet.

Due to it’s convenience and affordability, the vast majority of dogs in our practice still eat dry kibble. We’re okay with that as long as:
1.) It’s a relatively high caliber dry food that is all natural and – preferably – grain free; and
2.) The pet seems to be tolerating it well, with no vomiting or diarrhea, and with a healthy skin and coat, and no excessive scratching.

How Much Should Your Pet Eat a Day?

As an EXTREMELY crude starting feeding point, we usually recommend feeding about ¼ cup of dry food for every 10 pounds body weight, twice a day. E.g. a 20 pound dog would start with about ½ cup of dry food twice daily. With that as a starting point we can then adjust the feeding up or down based on the diet being fed and the dog’s biology.

When we see overweight dogs (over 50% of the pets we see are overweight) and query the owners, often we discover that they are either 1.) feeding well more than the volume outlined above, and/or 2.) giving significant quantities of scraps and treats.

And when we then dig deeper to find out how many treats and scraps the dog receives each day, it invariably turns out that it’s the man in the house who is the culprit. And I mean at least 90% of the time. It ALWAYS seems to be the man who gives way too many treats or snacks. (I won’t get into the psychology of why this is, but it’s definitely much more than mere coincidence.)

Recently we ran across the chart below. It neatly puts into context how much damage we’re doing to our pets (especially the smaller ones) when we continually slip them the occasional potato chip or piece of hot dog.

Dog treat translatorAnd once again, it seems to be overwhelmingly the guys who are the culprits. So all you well-meaning men out there who think you’re doing your dog a favor when you give him the same snacks you’re eating: STOP IT! And help your pet live longer and healthier.

A Healthy Weight for Dogs and Cats

Many of us are concerned about our own weight and trying to keep it under control. It may be news that there is an organization seeking to do the same for our pets. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention has assembled data on the weight of cats and dogs, and has concluded that more than half of them are overweight or obsess.

Like their humans, an increasing number of pets are developing weight-related disorders, particularly type 2 diabetes and osteoarthritis. Weight management guidelines have been published by several veterinary organizations, and there is a growing consensus that a healthy diet lower in calories than has been the norm in recent years, together with attempts to encourage more activity than many domestic pets generally undertake, with recommendations from us veterinarians and with the active involvement of you owners, will help to turn some of these weight problems around.

Determining Obesity

Dogs and cats should be weighed regularly, and this is now an almost universal part of veterinary office practice. This is particularly important because veterinary scales are accurate for animal use in a way that most human scales in homes are not.

Another useful weight measure is feeling the ribs: while humans often think that it is a sign of sickness or emaciation to see someone’s ribs, it is normal in healthy cats and dogs to feel the ribs under a thin layer of skin. The presence of a pad of fat over the ribs may well mean that a pet is too heavy. Looking at a dog or cat from above can be helpful as well: there should be an hourglass silhouette, and an animal shaped like a balloon or a blimp is overweight.

A very fat cat
Sawyer was 27 lbs when we first saw him. Here he is one year later at a svelt 18 lbs, and still losing

Another useful vantage point to check for obesity is from the side. An animal’s stomach should be taut and not sag downward, and a protruding stomach in a pet is like a paunch on a human. If any of these signs or regular weight measurements during veterinary visits indicate a pattern of weight gain, even a gradual one, a proper weight control regimen and strict feeding schedule should be implemented. Also, in some older pets, a thorough workup might be indicated to rule out certain diseases that cause weight gain, such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease.

As with humans, weight can be difficult for a pet to lose once it has been put on. A healthy weight loss program promotes fat loss and preserves or even enhances muscle mass; this usually involves lower calorie food that is high in protein to begin with.

Proper Feeding

Most cat and dog foods have certain feeding recommendations, but these are not always appropriate for older indoor animals or those who are less active: most recommendations are formulated for young adult dogs and cats who are physically active and have not been neutered or spayed, and may overestimate the calorie needs of spayed and neutered indoor cats and dogs by up to 30 per cent.

Veterinarians can determine more accurately the number of calories that a particular pet will require. A rough calculation for home use involves dividing the pet’s weight in pounds by 2.2 to get the equivalent in kilograms, multiplying by 30 and then adding 70 to obtain an approximate daily calorie intake. Or, you can use an easier measure to get a rough baseline and adjust from there. The shortcut method we use is to feed ¼ cup of high quality, all natural, grain free food for every 10 pounds of body weight twice daily. So a 10 pound cat gets ¼ cup twice daily, whereas a 40 lb dog gets a whole cup twice daily. But remember, that’s just a rough guideline and needs to be adjusted up or down for each individual animal.

Daily exercise, usually involving constant movement for about least 30 minutes a day, is also important.  This can be done by a daily walk outside, longer on weekends if possible, or by feeding  indoor animals at different locations and on elevated surfaces to promote walking,  jumping or climbing.  Remote-controlled toys and interactive toys that engage most animals’ inherent urge to play will increase calorie expenditure in a way that is fun for them, as will putting at least some of the food in puzzle devices that they must work at to access the food. These are available at all major pet stores.

Snacks and treats are important for training and are part of the loving interaction between pets and people. They are also an insidious source of weight gain: an extra 30 calories a day in snacks or treats can translate into a three or more pound weight gain over the course of a year. We recommend low-calorie treats with a single healthy ingredient, such as baby carrots, green beans, broccoli, apple or banana slices or blueberry and sweet potato bites. And these healthy treats are great to use as rewards for positive-reinforcement training.

It may be difficult to rein in the impulse to give treats to a happy, expectant animal or to leave something behind when going out, but a snack is best used as a reward, and the long-term reward for owners and slimmer animals is rejuvenation and increased energy. Except in some specific medical circumstances, special diets aimed at calorie reduction and weight loss are not necessary, only portion control and optimal nutrition.  In pets as in people, weight is an important determinant of chronic disease and quality of life as years go by, and pounds lost or not gained in the first place will pay off in fewer illnesses, lower medical costs and a longer and more enjoyable life.