May 2-8, 2010 is National Pet Week and this year the theme is “People and Pets – Healthy Together.” Common human health issues such as obesity, diabetes and cancer are now also health concerns for our pets. Since so many of these health concerns are preventable, this year’s theme spotlights how we can help ourselves and our pets to achieve better health.
In the United States, there is currently both a human and pet obesity epidemic. We no longer work in the field to cultivate and harvest our food; we work in offices and shop in grocery stores. Our pets no longer hunt for their food; we provide them with highly nutritious pet food. This shift has resulted in too many calories going in and not enough calories expended.
Just like overweight or obese humans, overweight pets are predisposed to disease. Diabetes, joint problems and urinary stone formation are increased in obese cats. Respiratory problems, congestive heart failure and orthopedic disorders are compounded in dogs carrying extra weight. Overweight or obese dogs have a shorter lifespan than their thinner counterparts.
Being “Healthy Together” involves finding ways to spend time with your pet without food as a motivator. Instead of sitting on the sofa together, go to the park and throw the ball for your dog. It is even possible to exercise your cat. Get a laser pointer and shine it on the wall. Make them run and jump. While you are having fun, you’ll probably forget to go the fridge for a snack. If you need exercise suggestions for your pets, here’s the link to AMC’s canine and feline exercise posters.
Smoking is another behavior affecting our health. In my practice at The AMC, I have learned from our clients that many people don’t realize smoking may affect the health of their pets. Cats and dogs living in households with smokers have measurable levels of nicotine metabolites in their urine, indicating environmental exposure to smoke may pose risks for pets. Furthermore, cats exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to develop lymphoma or oral squamous cell carcinoma. Being “Healthy Together” involves your entire family, pets included, which are all good reasons to quit smoking now.
The good news is that studies have shown that just having a pet helps keeps us healthy. Dog owners maintain a greater level of physical activity than non-dog owners and cat owners who have had a heart attack are 40 percent less likely to die than non-cat owners. Interestingly, the converse is not true. Cats don’t make us exercise more and dogs don’t seem to protect against heart attacks!
All of us pet owners know that if we are sick, pets always seem to make us feel better. In one study, the health of humans undergoing radiation therapy for cancer felt an improved sense of well-being when randomly assigned to a dog visit compared to a human visit or a quiet reading period.
See why “People and Pets – Healthy Together” is such a great theme? To continue celebrating this great theme, join The Animal Medical Center staff and supporters for PAW Day 2010 on June 5th at Carl Schurz Park in Manhattan.
For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.