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Fatty, High-Calorie Diets Mean Obesity and Maybe Death for Pets

July 14, 1987

CHICAGO (AP) _ People should remember that pets are what they eat, too, two veterinarians say.

People who repeatedly feed their animals fatty, high-calorie foods are doing the pets a disservice which could lead to depression, physical ailments and death, the doctors said.

Overweight dogs account for about 25 percent to 40 percent of dogs seen by veterinarians, said Allan Paul, small-animal extension veterinarian at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in Champaign.

Treats and table scraps are behind about 90 percent of cases of overweight pets, Paul said.

″When you think of what’s left over on your plate, it’s usually fat and trimmings, and that does usually tend to be higher in calories anyway,″ he said Monday.

An overweight pet on a fatty diet could develop inflammation of the pancreas, said Dr. Robert J. Keough, administrator of the Cook County Department of Animal Control. The condition strikes about two in every 1,000 pets and causes diarrhea, vomiting, depression and often death, he said.

Obese animals suffer from overtaxed heart and respiratory systems and their extra body weight can create skeletal problems, as well as knee, joint and back problems, Paul said.

Surgery or anesthesia on obese animals is extremely risky, he said.

Labrador retrievers, Cairn terriers, cocker spaniels, dachshunds, Shetland sheepdogs, basset hounds and beagles are most inclined to obesity, Keough said.

″You definitely see a lot of overweight cats, but they are somewhat less prone to obesity because they tend to be a little more discriminating in their eating habits,″ Paul said.

Indoor pets are more likely to be overweight than outdoor pets because they have greater access to food and tend to get less exercise, he said.

Keough said a pet owner can check for obesity by placing the thumbs on an animal’s spine and moving the fingertips back and forth across the ribcage.

″A thin or normal pet will have easy-to-feel ribs,″ Keough said.

Paul said pet owners should start their pets on a diet slowly, allowing the animals time to adjust to eating less. Specially formulated diets for dogs are available in grocery stores or by prescription, Paul said.

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