They may be fat and happy, but they may also be in danger.
It's the picture of contentment . . . your favorite furry four-legged companion, curled up on the floor in a patch of warm sunlight, snoozing with a belly full of the steak scraps left over from last night's dinner. Oh yes, he's content. But is he healthy? Not likely. Ensuring your pet's health goes beyond resisting the sad eyes and whimpers that plead for leftovers. Ignoring the content of your pet's food and his need for exercise can lead to dangerous health habits that may haunt both you and your pet in the future.
Improper diet for your pets can lead to health problems serious enough to endanger their lives. Diarrhea can result from allergic reactions to foods, sudden changes in diet, sickness, or dietary indiscretions (such as eating trash). If not treated, these reactions can lead to dehydration and weight loss. Extra pounds on an overweight dog can be associated with heart and respiratory ailments and skeletal stress, and obese dogs and cats are more prone to diabetes. A poor diet in your cat can result in urinary tract infections, which can block the ability to urinate. As a result, your cat could become critically ill within as little as 24 hours. And just one treatment to clear a cat's urinary tract can cost several hundred dollars.
Controlling Fluffy and Fido's diet and being aware of what to look for in the food you buy is as important for your pets as it is for your two-legged family members. As many as 89 percent of dog and cat owners feed their animals table scraps occasionally, according to a study done by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). But unfortunately, not only is people food often too high in fat for an animal to appropriately metabolize, but your pet may become a more finicky eater, refusing healthier pet food when the table scraps are gone.
But table scraps are not the only pitfall when it comes to nourishing those four-legged friends of ours. Many pet foods also have a high fat content, which, of course, Fluffy and Fido love. The more they eat it, the more they love it, and many eventually refuse to eat anything else.
So what should the concerned pet owner look for in buying acceptable food for pets? High fiber foods, often made with finely ground peanut hulls, are nutritionally balanced and complete. It usually takes a 10 to 20 percent fiber diet to change the weight of an obese pet. But a lower-fat food will probably not taste as good to your pet as his regular, fatty canned food, and he may refuse to eat it at first. Gradually changing finicky Fido's diet over a few weeks should solve the problem.
But eating a healthy diet is only half the battle for you and your pet. Exercise is also an important tool to help keep your furry friends in shape.
Copyright © 2008, American Animal Hospital Association
Reprinted with permission from the American Animal Hospital Association.
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