Diabetes & Your Pet – Drop the Pounds, Fight the Disease

So, you know the basics about diabetes in your pets and how serious it is here in this country.  You also know that obesity plays a HUGE ugly role in the disease.  What is the best way to fight obesity??  EXERCISE!

Now, as a dog walker, I am obviously going to tell you the best, easiest, cheapest, fun-est way to exercise your dog is by simply taking him or her for a walk.  Not only are you going to see the pounds drop off your pooch, you are going to see the bond between the two of your strengthen.  (Oh, and it’s healthy for you too!)  But maybe you don’t like to do things the easy way!  Maybe you have money burning a hole in your pocket, and dog exercise equipment is what you really love to spend your hard-earned cash on.  No worries!  We’ve got some great suggestions for you:

Go Pet Treadwheelswww.gopetusa.com

Living in New York City, the only pets I had time (or money!) for were two mice.  Those two gals LOVED their wheel and had different, intricate games they would play together using it.  (It was really something to watch…and video of them on their wheel was used as a backdrop for a modern dance piece performed on Broadway…making their NYC performance career more successful than my own!)  Go Pet has taken this mouse-running-on-a-wheel-for-exercise concept and made it dog sized.  While this seems like a clever idea, I just can’t imagine dogs really using this.  (There is even video of a cat running in one of these things on their website! )  The site advertises this as a great way for dogs to exercise when their parents are away (would a pup or cat really do that??) or when the weather is bad, but $475-$1125 seems a lot to pay so that you can sit on your booty while your pet works up a sweat.  On the other hand, I bet it is adorably entertaining to see your dog running on a big hamster wheel!

Canine Fitness Camp – Morris Animal Innwww.morrisanimalinn.com

Reading about Morris Animal Inn’s Weight Loss and Fitness Camp made me wonder if I could go too!  For about $50/day, Fido enjoy swimming, nature hikes, healthy fruit smoothies….along with “pampering massages“, “Doga“, and “Pawlates“.  (Ok, seriously…I REALLY want to go!)  I think this is a GREAT idea.  I know how hard it can be to start a diet/exercise plan – and this seems like the perfect way to kickstart your pooch’s regime.  This camp is sure to get your dog excited about getting out and being active…and the excitement is sure to carry over once you take your pup back home.

Chase It Pet Productswww.chaseit.com

This is another familiar pet toy, super sized!  Cats love these string toys, but for some reason the dog sized version of this just seems ridiculous.  I just can’t see myself lugging this fishing-pole-like contraption to the park…when an old-fashioned ball seems like it would get my pup going just as well.  They retail for about $25 – which isn’t a crazy amount to spend on something for my pet – but seems a bit over priced for something that looks like a fifth grader made it for Invention Convention.  (Does anyone know what I’m talking about?)

So get your dog running on that wheel, send them to boot camp, or get them jumping for joy over a toy!  Go to the park, around the block, or just out in the backyard.  Exercising with a buddy is always more fun – and it will be good for you AND man’s best friend to get some daily cardio in.  By taking such a simple step, you will make a giant leap in preventing diabetes in your pup.

For more information on obesity in pets and how to prevent it – visit The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention’s website.  It’s a great resource!

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Diabetes & Your Pets – Obesity

The fact that over a third of the adult population in the United States is obese is startling.  To hear that 45% of our dogs and 58% of our cats are overweight is nothing less than disturbing.

This picture of Sassy has been circulating around the internet for years, but this isn't funny! Overweight pets are a serious problem.

Our pets don’t look in mirrors, count calories, or step on scales, so pet parents are the only ones to blame for these ridiculous statistics.  The more I read about diabetes in our dogs and cats, the more I realized it was obesity rather than genetics that was to blame.  Some of the facts and statistics literally made me sick.

Every pound your cat is overweight is the equivalent of 13 pounds of extra weight on an adult woman (15 pounds on an adult man.)  Are you still not shocked?!  How about this analogy – if you have a lab that weighs 90 pounds…that is like being a 5’4” woman weighing 186 pounds.  Yikes!

Part of the problem is that most people with overweight pets consider them to be a normal weight.  It’s hard to make people address a problem that they don’t see as a problem!  Also, some people think that the extra poundage their poor puppy or kitty is carrying around is “cute”.  While they think the extra fat means more of their pet to love – they are actually taking years off their furbaby’s life.  (Up to 2 YEARS off!)  They are also taking dollars out of their wallet – American pet owners spend about $25 million a year to treat obesity related conditions.

The most ridiculous statistic?  Pet obesity is 100% preventable.  Just as in overweight humans, overweight dogs and cats are eating too much and not exercising enough.  This seems super obvious, right?  Yes and no.

Everyone knows that dogs need to go for walks (although just because people know this doesn’t necessarily mean that they walk their dogs every day.)  Did you know that cats need exercise too?  (Don’t worry…you don’t have to walk them!)  Most people assume cats are fine sleeping the day away, but just getting your cat to be active for 10-15 minutes a day can make a HUGE difference in their weight (and their happiness!)

Food and treats are two not-so-obvious causes of obesity in our pets.  There is no law requiring pet food companies to provide calorie information for their products (unless they are specifically marketing their food as “low calorie.”)  Also, a majority of people are simply feeding their dogs and cats too much.  Following the recommended portions on the bag isn’t always an accurate guideline – these are based on young, active pets that have not been spayed or neutered.  If your pet is older or isn’t being regularly exercised, but you are still following the printed serving sizes, you could be giving your four-legged friend 25% too much food.  Some of us (myself included!) cannot resist giving our little guy or gal a treat….sometimes for just being adorable! Giving your dog a small bone treat is the same as you eating two chocolate doughnuts.  A pig ear treat for your pup is the same as you drinking a six-pack of Coke.  Yuck!  Many treats today are simply loaded with sugar and fat (which is why our pets love them so!)  Am I saying you shouldn’t give your pup a treat for good behavior or for giving you those “puppy dog eyes”?  Of course not!!!  Just as in our own diets – they key word is moderation.

Our pets rely on us for everything.  They bring so much joy to our lives – the least we can do for them is keep them healthy.  Diabetes in dogs and cats is on the rise, and the main cause of this horrible disease is obesity.  They don’t know about cardio or portioning out their meals.  They are animals for Pete’s sake!  It is in their nature to eat whatever they can get their paws on.  It is up to us to make sure they aren’t getting their paws on too much!  This is going to sound harsh, but if you don’t have half an hour every day to devote to exercising your pet – you shouldn’t have gotten one in the first place!

Or maybe you should just call a fabulous dog walker….

Diabetes & Your Pets – Introduction

STOP Diabetes - in Humans and Pets!

Three days ago, this diabetic dog lover broke down and finally went on an insulin pump.  I have spent the last few weeks reading up on the disease and the various ways to treat it in humans.  As dogs are never far from my thoughts, it wasn’t too long before the idea of diabetes collided with the idea of pets in my brain.  How is diabetes in pets diagnosed?  What can you do for a pet with diabetes?  How do they even get diabetes in the first place?  These are all questions I asked myself when I was first diagnosed back in my last sugar-filled year (2005)….and they seemed valid questions now that diabetes in our pets is becoming more common place: about 1 in 500 dogs and 1 in 400 cats have the disease.

I was shocked to discover that human diabetes is extremely similar to diabetes found in dogs and cats.  When researching it in dogs, I swear I was reading word for word some of the passages I had just read in my pre-pump training.  The symptoms of the disease in pets are lethargy, excessive water consumption, increased urination, and unexplained weight loss or weight gain.  (The symptoms in humans are fatigue, increased thirst, frequent urination, increased hunger, and weight loss.)  There are two types of diabetes that can be found in people and pets – diabetes insipidus (dealing with kidneys and how they process water) and diabetes mellitus (dealing with insulin deficiency.)  These two diseases are completely different, but for now we are just going to be discussing diabetes mellitus – which is divided into Type 1 and Type 2 for humans, cats, and dogs.

Interestingly, Type 1 is more common than Type 2 in our pets…completely opposite of us humans.  Cats are more likely to develop Type 2 , though….while nearly all dogs have Type 1.  This means that dogs almost always have to be administered insulin shots while cats can often get off with a change of diet and other medications.  (Maybe we should change the expression to “You lucky cat!”)

Human using a glucose monitor

Dog using a glucose monitor (looks similar, doesn't it?)

What I found especially fascinating was the fact that you can use a human glucometer to test the blood sugar of dogs and cats.  Isn’t that crazy?!  You can also the same insulin (literally the exact same insulin that I use myself) on dogs and cats. (Heaven help you if you have to give your kitty insulin shots!)

Bigger dogs are more susceptible to developing diabetes…along with certain breeds (LabsPoodles, Miniature Schnauzer, Dachshunds to name a few) that seem prone to the disease.  Sometimes it is hereditary (just like humans.)

Sadly…obesity seems to play a HUGE part in diabetes developing in dogs and cats.  This has become an epidemic among American people and their pets.  In the next Diabetes & Your Pets post, I am going to post some startling statistics about how overweight our pets are.  Be sure to check back this week!