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The average domestic cat should ideally weigh approximately 8 to 10 pounds. However, more than 50% of household cats in the US are obese or overweight. The feline obesity epidemic is a major concern among veterinarians today, and should be to anyone with a feline companion. As little as 2 pounds of excess body weight can put cats at an up to 3 times increased risk for development of Type II diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, joint injuries, urinary tract disease, and overall lower immune system function. Obese cats have a significantly shorter lifespan when compared to cats at an optimum weight.
Why are so many household cats obese?
Our feline companions enjoy a life of leisure with all of their daily necessities provided by humans and have evolved to take advantage of a sedentary lifestyle. However, domestic cats are only a few generations from their wild counterparts with whom they share many genetic, physical, and behavioral components. Feeding behavior is highly similar to wild cats that consume 10 – 20 small meals throughout the day and night while spending many hours actively hunting. Domestic cats fed ad libitum (“free choice”) also consume frequent small meals throughout the day, but need only to take a few steps to the food bowl to obtain them. Instinctive hunting behaviors remain but are exhibited as playing, stalking and bouts of “friskiness,” and rarely last longer than an hour each day.
Spaying/Neutering is a common and highly recommended procedure that is integral to population control and significantly reduces behavioral problems in household cats. However, spayed and neutered cats have significantly lower (24-33%) daily energy requirements due to a decrease in their basal metabolic rate. But since their appetite is frequently unaffected it results in consumption of excess calories which are converted to fat. Male cats appear to be at a higher risk for obesity subsequent to castration when compared to spayed female cats.
Lastly, most commercial cat foods are formulated to be highly palatable because, let’s face it, you’re going to buy more of the food your cats like! Fat has long been known to be the best way to enhance palatability, and is added to many commercial diets for this purpose.
The evolution of the human-animal bond with our cats is wrought with good intentions. We provide our companions with all the luxuries they need, including an unlimited supply of their favorite foods. We’ve done everything in our power to make our cats as happy as they make us, with one unintended consequence: a predisposition to obesity.
Goals of Feline Weight Loss and Healthy Weight Management
Healthy weight maintenance is the first step in safeguarding your cat’s health. Together with advice from your veterinarian, follow these steps to design an individualized plan for your cat.
Step 1. Determine the ideal body weight for your cat
Do this with the help of your veterinarian. This chart shows how your veterinarian calculates your cat’s body condition score (BCS) on a scale of 1 (too thin) to 5 (obese).
Hills Pet Food has a website with a helpful guide to assess if your cat is overweight:
Step 2: Dietary Management
Your veterinarian can help you to determine the optimum diet for your cat’s needs and determine how many kilocalories (kcal) per day to feed to maintain an ideal body weight.
Cats should never be put on a diet without veterinary supervision
Many cats are finicky, but if a cat does not eat for 2 consecutive days it can develop life-threatening hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver syndrome)
Feed frequent small meals throughout the day. If this is not possible, feed a minimum of 2 meals per day.
Rechecks are critical!
Ideally your cat should be weighed once a month to assess if your weight loss plan is working.
How long will it take?
Healthy weight loss in cats should not exceed 1 – 2% of their body weight per week. Most cats will achieve their ideal weight within 6 – 8 months.
Step 3: Exercise
Exercise is not natural for cats like it is in dogs. Cats do not have any instinctive desire to exercise because they spend most of their day actively hunting for food in the wild. Therefore, it is up to you to make sure your cat gets at least 15-20 minutes of exercise each day. This can easily be accomplished using toys, laser pointers, and various other forms of environmental enrichment.
Treat balls are a great way to give your cat mental and physical stimulation.
Step 4: Understand how to maintain the ideal body weight
Involve everyone in the household
Keep your cat active with playtimes and stimulation
Regular veterinary examinations and re-checks
Consult with your veterinarian as needed with any questions or concerns about your cat’s health.
Cori Blair DVM
Here at Ocean County Veterinary Hospital Group (OCVH) we find that one of the most frustrating problems for rabbit and guinea pig owners is when a seemingly healthy pet develops an abscess – a pocket of infection and pus. Underlying dental disease is the most common reason these abscesses form. An abnormal tooth or malformation of the mouth will frequently lead to abscesses. Rabbit and guinea pig teeth continue to grow throughout the animal’s entire life, so it is important that they always have hay available. Chewing hay helps keep their teeth properly ground down. Unfortunately, genetics also plays a role, so even with a proper diet, acquired dental disease and abscesses are not always preventable.
There are some other ways for abscesses to occur in rabbits and guinea pigs. Trauma is a frequent underlying cause. This can be anything from a fall to a sharp piece of a cage abrading or puncturing the feet or body. And abscesses can occur anywhere in the body if the infection enters the blood stream and lymphatic system. Untreated, these lesions will many times be fatal.
Recently, a little guinea pig named Jack came to visit us at OCVH.. Jack, a 10-month old male, presented for two swellings under his chin. Upon examination, we found that the swellings were actually abscessed lymph nodes. We immediately took him to surgery to lance and drain the infected lesions. He recovered well and was placed on oral antibiotics to help fight the infection. With many guinea pigs and rabbits this relatively minor procedure alone is enough to cure the problem. Unfortunately, recurrence is not uncommon due to the huge load of bacteria in the system and other complicating factors.
Jack did happen to have a recurrence of the swellings about 2 weeks later. This time we needed to perform a more complex procedure to remove Jack’s lymph nodes “en bloc”- which means to completely cut out all of the infected lymph node intact. The surgical sites were packed with a blend of antibiotics and other natural ingredients to promote healing. Jack continued to take antibiotics and his owners were instructed how to flush the areas to keep them clean and promote healing. Jack did very well following this procedure, but unfortunately recurrence is still possible.
Early detection is the key to a successful outcome for these types of cases. By recognizing abscesses early we can remove small pockets of infection before they spread or become more invasive. It gives us the best chance at avoiding recurrence and reducing the pet’s discomfort. For this reason regular visits with your guinea pig and rabbit companions are highly recommended. During the examination, we can get a clear view of your pet’s teeth and oral cavity, as well as palpate for the presence of any abscesses that may be cropping up. We can also trim or file overgrown teeth before they cause pain or abscesses to form.
So remember, lots of hay, careful observation and rapid intervention whenever you suspect a problem.
Thanks for entrusting us with the care of your rabbit and guinea pig family members!
No other procedure performed on small animals does more to help patients than professional dental cleaning and after care. Preventative dental care or “dental prophylaxis” is performed not only to clean the teeth, but also to evaluate the mouth for any other problems that might be present. One important concept to understand is the difference between a preventative (or “prophylactic”) dental versus a dental procedure involving extractions. Periodontal disease is a hidden disease and unless you go looking for it you will not find it until it is advanced. Our procedures are far more than “scraping tartar off teeth.”So what exactly happens when your pet comes to us for dental care?
1) General anesthesia
Before the dental procedure can begin, the patient must be placed under general anesthetic. This will greatly increase patient comfort and effectiveness of cleaning. In addition, it allows us to place an endotracheal tube in the patient’s wind-pipe. This will protect the lungs from the bacteria that are being removed from the teeth. Sedation and anesthesia are essential for an adequate evaluation and a thorough cleaning. We examine individual teeth for mobility, fractures, and also the area under the gum line, which is the most important part. For this reason, “non-anesthetic” cleaning is not a worthwhile option. Modern veterinary medicine takes into account the health status of your pet and we require a Complete Blood Count (CBC) and a chemistry panel that includes liver and kidney values prior to any anesthetic. We use a variety of safe anesthetics in addition to modern equipment and trained technicians who monitor your pet throughout their dental procedure.
2) Dental X-rays
We take X-rays of the entire mouth using the most modern digital radiographic systems. Did you know that up to 70% of the tooth can lie below the gum line unseen? Dental X-rays show us the inside of the tooth and its root under the gums. Many decisions are based on X-ray findings. Sometimes a tooth may look normal but on X-ray we may see irreparable damage to the root that necessitates removal of the tooth and oral surgery. Trying to practice dentistry without using dental radiographs is like trying to treat ear disease without an otoscope, or diabetes without blood sugar measurements.
3) Therapy to treat any disease found by exam and x-rays
Sometimes it is necessary to extract teeth that are too damaged by disease. These teeth are nonfunctional and can harbor bacteria that may be harmful to your pet’s liver, kidneys, or heart. Removing the diseased tooth eliminates the source of pain and dental surgery is an important and beneficial dental procedure when performed correctly. A dental radiograph is taken to confirm that the entire tooth has been extracted and the remaining alveolus (socket) is free of bone, root remnants or debris.
4) Supragingival (above the gum line) plaque and tartar removal
This is when we clean the portion of the tooth that you can see using an ultrasonic scaler. It is the most visible part of the procedure and gives that “white” appearance to the teeth once the tartar build up is removed. It is important to know that this step is the ONLY step that can be performed (although very poorly) during a “non-anesthetic dental”. The teeth may look cleaner, but the most important parts of the procedure have yet to be done.
5) Subgingival (below the gum line) cleaning
This is cleaning the area under the gum line. In our animal patients, this is one of the most important steps because subgingival plaque and calculus is what causes periodontal disease which in turn leads to pain, tooth loss and loss of bone that holds the teeth. This is the most common ailment diagnosed in ALL our animal patients.
Polishing smoothes out the defects and removes plaque (bacteria) that could not be removed during the previous steps. Pumice or polishing paste is used on a polishing cup for the procedure. Polishing makes it more difficult for plaque to stick to the teeth so it can delay the onset of future dental problems.
Water spray plus an added antimicrobial rinse are used to gently flush and remove debris and diseased tissue from the gingival pocket or sulcus.
8) Fluoride application
Fluoride application serves the strengthen the enamel and helps decrease sensitivity of the teeth
9) Dental Charting
All of the relevant oral findings are recorded on your pet’s record including missing, loose, or fractured teeth as well as any treatment rendered. This will allow the veterinarian to more accurately follow your pet’s progress through the years.
10) Home care
Home care is the single most important procedure the owner can do to maintain oral health.
The pet owner is an integral part of our dental team. The dental visit is not complete until discussion is held on maintaining and improving oral health. This will include a talk on how to brush your pet’s teeth and diets that can actually remove or reduce the buildup of plaque! Once we get your pet’s mouth clean and problem areas addressed, daily brushing should help reduce development of periodontal disease. If you can maintain home care, future procedures should be quicker, require less anesthesia and surgery, and be less expensive.
Dr. Kara Ruthberg
Let’s keep those pearly whites happy and healthy.
Hello readers. I hope everyone had a great holiday season. This is a great time to focus on our pets’ health as well as our own. After all, I know that you all want to keep Fido and Fluffy happy, healthy, and comfortable for as long as possible. That is the reason that you come to see us regularly and read these informative blogs. Preventative and interventional medicine can both do great things to not only lengthen but strengthen your dear friends’ life. So why not make a resolution for your little one as well as for yourself? Of course, I don’t mean that they should work harder to reconnect with distant friends or lay off the extra cake (although that last one is surely recommended). Rather, the veterinary team, you, and your pet need to take another look at something that we may have been putting off for too long now. Yes gentle readers, it is time to address the pink elephant in the room which in this case is your fuzzy one’s mouth.
Its not just about bad breath or aesthetics anymore.
Combating dental disease is not just about fighting bad breath or making them look pure white. Certainly, these are desirable effects of a healthy mouth and important to consider. After all, who would not prefer to be licked by a pleasant smelling dog mouth? Also, who does not want their little one to look as brilliant as possible? That being said, if it was just about looks and smell, I could understand how one could see the procedure as an elective or cosmetic procedure. The thing is, though, that maintaining oral health is so much more important than that. In dogs and cats, halitosis can not simply be attributed to dietary habits. Rather, when your pet’s breath smells bad it is almost always due to significant oral infection. First and foremost, this infection eats away at the bone around the teeth and causes a great deal of pain. Keep in mind that all dogs and cats will eat even if they are in pain. In the wild, hiding pain kept them alive, but in our homes it can make the disease harder to recognize. For this reason, it is important to have your friendly veterinarian evaluate your pet’s teeth at least once a year even if you have not noticed any problems. Our pets can try to hide their discomfort until the dental disease becomes irreversible. However, if we are vigilant your pet will enjoy a pain free and healthy mouth for all of his or her days. Since bacteria from the mouth can infect the kidneys and heart, removing the infection will keep the rest of the body healthy as well.
In her companion blog article, Dr. Ruthberg will elaborate on the benefits and proper method of a full oral evaluation and treatment. For the purpose of this article though, keep in mind that “cosmetic” cleanings without anesthesia are dangerous and do not address the true source of dental disease. For more information, please refer position statement by the American college of Veterinary Dentists: http://www.avdc.org/dentalscaling.html. Just as in human dental care, there are no shortcuts to good oral health. Proper home care, regular prophylactic cleanings, and surgical intervention are all critical to keep those mouths happy and healthy.
Consider the following facts:
Subtle signs like decreased self-grooming in longhaired cats can be early indications of oral pain and infection.
1) At the tender age of 3 years old, 80% (Yes that’s 8 out of 10) dogs have gingival disease. If left untreated, this will lead to irreversible bone destruction leading to tooth loss. The moral of this story is it’s never too early to get on top of your dog’s oral care. Cats are not much better off with 70% having clinically significant gingival disease by the same age.
2) There are several diseases that can only be diagnosed and treated by a trained veterinary professional. In cats, these include inflammatory swelling of the gums and mouth, irreversible bone loss and gingival infections, and cavity-like resorptive lesions. Dogs can also develop bone loss and gingival infections as well as tooth fractures.
3) Our teeth have a full 3 millimeters of enamel for protection but dogs only have 1.5 millimeters, one half the amount. This lack of protection puts them at higher risk for external damage. Additionally, for many breeds their jaws can produce an enormous amount of force while chewing (250-350 pounds per square inch compared to 150 for a human). It is not hard to see why so many dogs fracture their teeth when chewing on bones, rocks, ice cubes and hard toys.
4) Sneezing and nasal discharge may be due to an infection of the upper tooth roots. The infection may lead to an opening between the mouth and the nasal cavity. This is called an oronasal fistula, and treatment requires surgical repair. This is especially common in dachshunds, greyhounds, and cats.
5) Facial swelling below the eye is usually due an infection of the fourth upper premolar. This is the main chewing tooth in a dog’s mouth, which makes it susceptible to fracture. Its position in the back of the mouth also makes it difficult to keep this tooth clean with home care alone. The treatment for this abscess is oral surgery.
6) Small dog breeds are more likely to develop gingivitis and periodontal disease than large dogs because the teeth of small dogs are often too large for their mouths, according to veterinary dentistry experts.
Keeping all that in mind, let us help you keep your pets’ teeth healthy for years to come.