Obesity and Pets – How extra weight harms your Pet

Extra weight impacts your pet's quality of life and longevity, in today’s veterinary blog, Dr. Teri Dowdell outlines how obesity can affect a pet’s health and how you and your pet can both get on track for a healthier new year.

Overweight pets are prevalent in the United States where obesity ranks as the most common nutritional disorder in dogs and cats. In 2015, 54% of companion animals were determined to overweight or obese, but their owners didn’t recognize it. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, reports that more than 90% of owners perceived their pets to be of normal weight.

That’s where a professional opinion counts. The first step in determining if your pet is at a healthy weight is a physical exam from your family veterinarian. He/she will know the appropriate weight for your pet’s age, stature, and breed. In addition, a licensed veterinarian will have insight on the nutritional needs and the best diet for your beloved pet.

Dr. Teri Dowdell, WestVet Veterinary physiotherapist, helps pets recover physically after surgery, prepare for agility work, and lose weight, among other needs.Pet's obesity can harm their health and their longevity - tips from Dr. Teri Dowdell, veterinary physiotherapist She says that ideal body condition is not just for aesthetics--it really is a matter of good health. A few common diseases linked with pet obesity include:

  • Osteoarthritis. Extra weight increases stress on joints, leading to pain and eventually, joint degeneration. It becomes a circular problem, as a pet with joint pain will decrease activity, leading to obesity. An important note: the single most effective component in managing arthritis in an obese pet is weight loss; appropriate weight loss often leads to medication reduction or elimination.
  • Intervertebral disk disease. Extra pounds do not cause disks to degenerate, however, the weight creates greater force and could exacerbate a sub-clinical condition--often resulting in a veterinary emergency. 
  • Decreased life span. Obese pets live shorter lives by an average of 2.5 years.
  • Diabetes mellitus and insulin resistance. In cats, weight management is especially important to decrease the risk of diabetes mellitus; obese cats have a 50% decrease in insulin sensitivity.
  • Hepatic lipidosis in cats. When an obese cat goes off food for any reason, body fat is mobilized and may infiltrate the liver, resulting in organ failure. Critical advice: never starve your cat for weight loss!
  • Respiratory Issues. A significant fat layer makes taking deep breaths more difficult. In small dogs, obesity is a risk factor in tracheal collapse; some cases of this disorder can only be successfully managed with weight loss.
  • Increased anesthetic risk. In association with respiratory complications as deep breaths are more difficult for obese pets, anesthetic medications further decrease the body’s ability to breathe deeply. These conditions, along with the fact that many anesthetics are fat soluble, often mean an obese patient may take longer to recover from surgery.
  • Exercise and heat intolerance. Particularly critical during summer months. 
  • Heart disease.Using physiotherapy and veterinary help when your pet is obese, WestVet's Dr. Teri Dowdell.
  • Pancreatitis.
  • Kidney disease.
  • Urinary tract disease.
  • Impaired immune response.
  • Skin diseases. These ailments often arise due to difficulty grooming; some animals may even develop pressure sores.
  • Cranial cruciate ligament injury. Although knee and joint disease in dogs are considered multifactorial, joint stresses from added weight plus the pro-inflammatory properties of fat may make significant contributions to the eventual rupture of the ligament.
  • Some forms of cancer. Obese dogs and cats are statistically more likely to suffer from cancer.

It doesn’t take a lot of extra weight for your dog or cat to be labeled obese, with their smaller bodies, even a few extra pounds that may look “chubby” or “cute” could put your pet at risk.

Strategies for weight loss differ between dogs and cats. It's important that you keep an open dialog with your family veterinarian for the best results. In addition, consult your veterinarian to ensure that there are no medical reasons for your pet's weight gain.

 Simple changes you can implement in your pet’s routine to help reverse weight gain:

  • Substitute lower calorie treats. Your pet may find raw carrots or green beans may be just as satisfying. WestVet physiotherapy and rehabilitation center offers help for obese pets and postoperative care.
  • Ensure everyone is onboard with the new diet and treat protocol… especially children!
  • Therapeutic diets can be helpful, especially when significant weight loss is needed.
  • Increased exercise should be part of the strategy; substitute walk or play time for snack time.
  • Introduce interactive toys that will engage your pet.
  • Place the food bowl upstairs.
  • Utilize a digital pet activity monitor to determine if your pet is moving enough.
  • Physiotherapy has been shown to be very beneficial in reducing lameness associated with osteoarthritis.
  • Frequent weight evaluations are key. Weigh your pet often and remain in close contact with your family veterinarian to ensure that the amount and rate of weight loss are appropriate.

Weight loss can be difficult—but don’t give up. The long-term happier healthier results are worth it!

If you have concerns about your pet’s weight, it’s always appropriate to consult with your family veterinarian. If your veterinarian is unavailable, WestVet is open and able to address your concerns 24 hours a day. 

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2016 Resolutions for Pets and their People in the New Year

With a bright, shiny new year laid out in front of us, it’s a good time to consider big (and little) resolutions—and how to involve your pets in the 2016 goal-setting. In today’s blog, some ideas where a little change in your life and could result in a big improvement in your furry friend’s life.

Daily exercise. Get out and about with your dog, every day. If you’re trying to shape up or train for a competition, your dog could be a willing fitness partner. WestVet New Year's resolutions for pets - Keep everyone healthy and Happy in 201630 minutes of walking, running, hiking, or cross-country skiing a few times a week will benefit both of you.

For feline friends, playtime is a must. The time that your cat spends chasing and batting a toy benefits his/her waistline and temperament. Veterinarians maintain that a pet’s healthy weight is critical for long-term health and mobility. Bonus: pets think of the work out as play time, they’ll not only be tired, but more content!

No people food – and a measured meal.  Using a specific scoop when dishing up your pet’s food dish can save some extra calories. Your family veterinarian will have important input on both the type and amount of food your pet needs for his age/breed/size. Table scraps are always a "NO." Human food contains too much sugar, salt, fat, etc., for four-legged friends. Don’t forget to track the treats dispensing. If you, your partner, the dog walker, and the kids all dole out a treat or two, it will be too much. Consider counting out a daily portion; when the treats are gone—they’re done for the day.

Schedule the day. Pets thrive on routine. You may find that as meals, walks, and play time happen at the same time, your pet is one step ahead of you. Disruption in the routine is particularly stressful for cats. Ordinary life changes like a new baby, houseguests, remodeling, moving and/or the addition of a new pet can result in an unhappy and misbehaving feline. Your veterinarian will have some ideas on ways to help alleviate distress and help ease your cat into the new family dynamic. In addition, WestVet’s Dr. Hazel Carney provides behavior consultations if your kitty is suddenly stressed, aggressive or anxious, and/or not using the litter box.

Book the annual veterinary visit. The yearly physical exam performed by your family veterinarian is critical to your pet’s good health. Veterinary records track a pet’s weight, vaccines and preventative care medications, and any other significant changes. Call and schedule your pet’s 2016 appointment today!

Seek specialty care when needed. A veterinary specialist could save your pet’s life; they partner with your family veterinarian to provide the highest level of care available. Pets often benefit from seeing a specialist if they are not responding to treatment or have an aggressive or advanced illness.

Take a training class (or two). If your pooch could benefit from some better manners, 2016 could be the year to enroll in a training course. Many of the best dog trainers often say that training for your dog is actually training for YOU on how to be consistent, firm, and clear in commands and expectation. Bonus: the time spent together will strengthen the relationship and bond with your pet.

Update collar and contact information. Ensure that your pet has a well-fitting collar with current ID tags. If you and your pet become separated, these ID tags and a current city pet license are the quickest means to a happy reunion. Many pet microchip companies enable pet families to update contact info online in a matter of minutes. 

As you embrace the New Year and its promise of change and personal improvement, include your pets and make it a great year for all of you. Happy 2016!

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Boise dog injured in house fire, released from WestVet; now recovering with his family

Guinness, a black Labrador retriever, was rushed to the WestVet ER Hospital after being discovered unconscious at a house fire. 

The WestVet Emergency doctors and staff members are pleased to report that Guinness has been discharged and will complete his recovery with his family. You may remember that he was found unconscious by neighbors following a house fire last week in Boise. Guinness was treated at WestVet ER following a house fire in Boise.The beloved pet black lab suffered from smoke inhalation and corneal damage. Dr. Andrea Oncken, veterinary critical care specialist, reports Guinness has a good prognosis:

“Guinness went home yesterday with good eyesight. He has bilateral corneal ulcers, secondary to burns that are healing well with treatment. Guinness was discharged doing well, other than a residual cough, which is likely from a combination of clearing up the remaining smoke particles and secondary pneumonia as well as likely some healing tracheal burn.  All of this is reversible, so his long term prognosis is excellent. We don't expect any long term complications as long as his corneas and lungs don't get any secondary infections.” 

Guinness was examined by veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Carrie Breaux, she was also very pleased with his healing and progression. WestVet provided ER vet care to Boise dog in house fireShe says that the black lab has a good prognosis.

WestVet staff members quickly grew to love this gentle dog. One of our favorite moments throughout his hospital stay was when his people would come to visit. He never failed to react immediately with a wagging tail and nuzzles for both of them, even when he was on oxygen and not very mobile. It was inspiring to see their bond with him.

The Idaho Statesman has an article HERE that recaps the fire details and explains how people can make donations to the family. WestVet treated Boise black lab following house fire in Treasure Valley


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Helping children cope with the loss of a pet

Losing a pet is a painful and devastating situation for families, and it may be especially confusing for children, ER Veterinarian Dr. Desiree FitzGerald outlined a few ways that parents can help in today’s veterinary blog.

Emergency veterinary professionals often face the difficult task of helping people say good-bye to a beloved pet. These painful circumstances vary, it may be a tragic accident, old age, or advanced illness. There are times when humane euthanasia is the best decision for the pet.

Regardless, this is never an easy situation. Pets serve as family, friends, and loyal companions—all rolled into one. Added to that, each person in the household shares a unique relationship with the pet. Whether running partner, watchdog, companion, or playmate, it’s not uncommon for people in the same household to respond differently to the loss of a pet. Helping your child cope with grief after the loss of a petOne particularly difficult situation for parents and caregivers is supporting a child following the loss. For some children this may be their first experience with death, and the pair enjoyed a day-to-day, close relationship. 

One common dilemma for parents is determining if their child should be present for the euthanasia. This is a personal decision, one with which your family veterinarian can help. Ask him/her their recommendations based on the symptoms and condition of your pet. There are situations where the euthanasia can be difficult or traumatic; following an emergency, sudden tragedy, or event where the pet has severe visible injuries, or is suffering from a condition that alters a pet’s behavior (seizures, severe breathing difficulties, etc.) In these situations your family veterinarian may recommend that adults relay the passing of the pet to the child. If desired, families may opt to visit for final good-byes after the pet has passed.

This extremely personal decision rests with individual families. Ultimately, parents know their children’s temperament and maturity and can determine if a child(ren) can process the complexities of the situation.

Often, following a pet’s passing, parents may not know how to best support a grieving child. In addition, adults are experiencing their own grief, and it may be easy to overlook a child’s feelings. Awareness of your child’s emotional state, additional patience, expressing love to your child, and showing affection—all of these are some simple measures which are always appropriate in these circumstances.westvet Dr. Desiree FitzGerald with how to help kids cope with grief after losing a pet Consider alerting other caregivers of the pet’s passing, such as teachers, coaches, and adult friends who can offer support during this difficult time.

There are some creative outlets for grief that can memorialize a beloved pet. Children may write a letter to the deceased pet, draw a picture, or make a scrapbook, or plant a tree in honor of the pet. If a pet is cremated, children may help with creating a special place for the remains to be displayed, along with small tokens or gifts. If ashes will be scattered, children may be invited to attend and assist with this special memorial.    

Certainly, allow children to grieve in their own way, some may be outwardly emotional, others will remain stoic, and some may not initially acknowledge the loss at all. Emotions may not surface immediately, parents and caregivers may find tears and sadness much later as the realization of the loss becomes more tangible. The death of a pet may bring up additional questions from the child about death in general, where the pet is, euthanasia questions, etc. This is a good time for a family discussion on your beliefs.    

If your senior pet is showing significant signs of old age, and this difficult decision is in your families’ future, some preparation for young people may be helpful. Discuss the situation openly with your child. He/she can come to understand that their furry friend is in pain, unable to enjoy life, and that medications are unable to heal or provide relief, etc. This preparatory conversation can provide some peace for your child when the difficult decision must be made.

Another challenge people will face, is when they should adopt another pet. This is a personal choice—one that is different for each family. Younger children tend to be ready for a new pet more quickly than older children. Tweens and teens have numerous cherished memories of the pet recently lost, and they made need time to grieve before they are ready to bring a new pet into their home and hearts. The best advice, is to have a family discussion and ensure that everyone is on board and ready for the responsibility of adding a new pet to the family.  


WestVet offers emergency veterinary care 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; if your pet is experiencing an emergency, come directly to the hospital.

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Is it normal for dogs to be put under anesthetic for X-rays?

In today’s veterinary blog, Dr. Andrew Gendler, veterinary radiologist, explains why it may be necessary to sedate your pet to complete a radiographic study (x-rays).

When your pet is suffering from a cough, an unusual breathing pattern, weakness, vomiting, or lameness/limp, radiographs (x-rays) play a crucial role in obtaining the diagnosis. The successful acquisition of diagnostic high-quality radiographs requires that the patient remains still for a short amount of time and often hold a posture or specific position to isolate a particular body part. 

More importantly, sedation with injectable medications during imaging studies improves patient comfort and reduces anxiety.How X-rays can assist veterinary specialists when providing care for you pet at WestVet When pets are not compliant because of the unfamiliar surroundings, foreign smells, being briefly separated from their people, and being handled by strangers, mild sedation can alleviate these issues and enable WestVet staff to thoroughly complete the x-ray imaging study.

In addition to anxiety and unease, patients may be experiencing pain. An accurate diagnosis of a skeletal injury, such as fractures or joint dislocation, involves specific positioning of the body and limb. This may require sedation and injectable pain medication (like opioids). Some injuries are so severe that general anesthesia may be required. Your pet’s comfort is a top priority during their time and treatment at WestVet.

Radiographs are produced using ionizing radiation. This presents an occupational hazard to the veterinary support staff who position the patient. Sedation allows us to better position our patients and keep them still during the radiographic imaging while also allowing our staff to avoid the primary x-ray beam and limit radiation exposure.

Finally, high quality, diagnostic radiographs require very specific positioning of the patient and the primary x-ray beam. Dr. Andrew Gendler provides veterinary radiology care to pets and their families in the Treasure Valley.Sedation and anesthesia allow our staff to obtain the best quality radiographs possible, increasing the likelihood of a correct clinical diagnosis for your pet/our patient. Radiographs of patients who are not compliant, will not hold still, or are very upset, often are blurry, exclude the area of interest, or are poorly positioned and difficult to interpret because of superimposed extraneous anatomy. Poor quality radiographs may delay the accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, subject the support staff to additional and often unnecessary radiation exposure, and are a poor use of financial resources.

The specific sedation or anesthesia protocol used for your pet will vary depending on their age, clinical condition, and doctor overseeing the case. Your family veterinarian can discuss the specific details of your pet’s sedation plan and address any concerns.

The staff at WestVet take pride in treating all of our patients as if they are their own. If you have any questions regarding radiography services at WestVet, you may contact us at 208.375.1600.

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