Should Crufts include a bikini category to aid in the Labrador judging?
I read three great blog posts by Slimdoggy.com this week. They revealed clearly how the definition of a defined waist line had expanded over time in the Labrador judging arena. If you are interested the links are: No wonder a lab has never won at Westminster When did overweight labs become the new normal? Will the Crufts lab be as heavy as the Westminster lab?
So what's a veterinarian's take on the Lab's shape?
Well, I've got some news judges, and it's not good. Whilst I can't take personality into account and I do believe that is important, if the judging is based on looks alone then we're in trouble. If this is the standard that all Labradors should be aiming to meet then uh oh, alarm bells should be going off! How do I know this is a podgy pooch and not a fitness freak? Well I should be able to see a tucked up tummy and a waist line - nope, ideally I would be able to feel his ribs and not see them. Well I definitely can't see them so there is no chance of him being under weight.
So why does this vet care about advertising Labrador obesity as being the norm?
Carrying extra weight is not cute or cuddly. It potentially leads to a very painful existence for these pets. Chronic joint pain, chronic back pain, skin conditions, diabetes in cats, pancreatitis, liver disease, heart disease and the list goes on. It is not benign to have an obese pet. They will not tell you with words that they are in pain or suffering. They talk to you by their actions. Why do you think a dog limps? Because they are in pain - not because they don't want to use the leg... why do you limp? Generally because your leg hurts! Why are they not moving around much or puffing and panting like crazy - because they are pain when they walk or move, or exhausted because they are carrying so much extra weight. Is the solution then to add a bikni/mankini category to the competition? They do it beauty pageants so why not doggy show rings? Now this may sound rather ridiculous, but I feel that it's fairly ridiculous that the judges are advocating big is best. Now, we all know that big doesn't always mean better.
What about our non-show ring pets?
We need to spare a thought for all those podgy pets out there. The obesity epidemic is not only one affecting people but it also affects many of our pets. From my personal experience the two most common problems that I see during routine consultations are obesity and dental disease. Both of these conditions cross the species lines. I’ve seen podgy parrots, rotund rabbits, chubby cats, dumpy dogs, portly guinea pigs and tubby mice. The most common reason for obesity in pets is overfeeding and under exercising. Many people love their pets with food instead of loving them with pats, cuddles and exercise.
So Fido has a few extra kilos... does it really matter? Yes. The blubber does not come without bother!
- Cats, like people, can develop obesity related insulin resistance which can lead to the development of diabetes
- Obesity leads to skin folds, and skin folds lead to inflammation, infections and faecal and urine scalding which is both smelly and extremely uncomfortable for your pet
- Arthritis. Those extra kilos put extra pressure on your pet’s joints and spine. Obesity plus arthritis can lead to a significantly painful existence for your much loved companion
- Cardiovascular disease including high blood pressure
- Liver disease
- Increased surgical risk – obese pets have higher rates of complication during surgery and recovery than their slender counterparts
Whilst there are some medical conditions that can cause pets to gain weight, such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease, medical conditions account for only 5% of companion animal obesity.
Where do you start your pet’s weight loss journey?
Bring them into your local veterinary clinic for a weigh in and check up. Your vets and vet nurses will be able to give you pointers to get your pet started on their weight loss journey. They may include simply cutting back on treats and meal sizes or they may recommend a prescription veterinary diet that will help the kilos melt away. Remember, as your pet gets older their metabolism slows down. You may need to change their diet from an “Adult” food to a “Senior or Mature” formula. Generally these foods will also include supplements to help joint health which is another benefit for you aging companion. Fortunately many of the effects of obesity can be reversed with weight loss. So why don’t you become your pet’s own personal trainer. They’ll love spending the time with you and it will enrich your life and theirs.
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