Archived Story

Pets need weight management, too

Published 12:00am Sunday, July 8, 2012

How much should Huxley weigh?

My friends are responsible pet owners.

They care about their pet and this would seem like a reasonable question. Substitute different names and this is perhaps the most common question that I get asked.

Unfortunately it is also one of the most difficult, if not impossible, questions to answer.

The number on the scale or weight has to do with many things. Health is probably the first.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the stomach virus going around. Between 8 p.m. and the next morning, I lost more than 5 pounds.

If I had felt better, I could have liked losing five pounds. Unfortunately, emptying my gastrointestinal tract from both ends doesn’t do a thing for the fact that I am overweight.

Dehydration can be a powerful weight reducer on the scale. Unfortunately, fluid and electrolyte loss is a very dangerous way to lose weight.

And it is pointless. The weight comes back as soon as you start drinking and eating what you should.

Mild dehydration is difficult to detect. When laboratory beagles were dehydrated 10 percent by weight, there were no clinical signs.

I’m pretty sure that if I lost 15-20 pounds by dehydration, I would feel quite sick, but these dogs did not. If the same holds true for Huxley, she could drop almost two pounds and still look OK, but she still would be morbidly obese.

Muscle is another thing that adds pounds. A pound of muscle is more compact than a pound of fat.

On a human, a liter of fat will be 900 grams or 1.98 pounds. A liter of muscle would weigh 1060 grams. Another way to look at it, would be that a liter of muscle requires 15 percent less room than a pound of fat.

So would I love to have another 10 to 20 pounds of muscle? Yes, I would. Ten to 20 pounds of extra fat? No thank you. Been there, done that and extra fat is very difficult for humans to get rid of.

So, a pit bull is allowed to weigh in more than a husky. And if Huxley hunted for a living, Huxley could weigh a little more. Of course, if Huxley had to hunt for a living, she would be a lot thinner.

At Huxley’s current body composition, I am quite sure most of the critters that would be running for their lives would succeed.

You have heard the joke about the man who got on to his beagle for not running fast enough to catch the rabbit? The beagle replied that he “was just running for his supper, the rabbit was running for his life.

Not only is muscle more compact, it also requires more energy to maintain. More energy out, means that more fat is used for metabolism and more real fat weight loss.

That is why many of my patients are being prescribed a walk several times a week. The exercise itself helps with weight loss, but the muscle mass that is increased uses more energy and helps with weight loss even when not exercising.

Of course, if you want to start, a walk benefits owners also.

Bone structure is another component of weight on the scale. A greyhound or whippet will have a lot finer bones than a cocker spaniel or a bulldog.

On a side note, I have tried to point out to my MD that I have big bones. Although this may be true, he still writes unpleasant things about my weight in my chart and we have a ‘discussion’ about it.

Anyway, even after two articles about her, Huxley still has a small head and therefore small bones.

So how do I know that Huxley was morbidly obese? The same way we know a human is. We look at them.

I don’t know of any kids who ask how much another kid weighs before they start calling them “Tubby” or Lardbutt. The same is true of pets.

The ideal pet body should have a waist when seen from the top. It should have an abdominal tuck when viewed from the side. And you should be able to see the last few ribs on a short haired dog.

Normal cats never have short enough fur to see ribs. Dogs should not look like a tube or exploded tube.

Cats should not have a paunch. Actually neither should humans.

So, how much should Huxley weigh?

Less.

A lot less.

That is the most accurate answer.

 

MJ Wixsom practices veterinarian medicine at Guardian Animal Medical Center in Flatwoods, Ky. For questions, call 606-928-6566.

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