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18/09/2016, 21:00

Our unhealthy lifestyles can harm our pets

Smoking, not exercising, poor diet and stress all have negative impacts on our pets’ health as well as our own. People often ask me why I (Perry Jameson) chose veterinary medicine over human medicine. At the time of my decision more than 30 years ago, it was as simple as I liked animals and science. Veterinary medicine allowed me to combine the two and help people and their pets in the process.

Over the years I have realized that I also would not enjoy working on people. Many of the issues we have are self-induced from a lack of taking care of ourselves and doing things that are harmful to our health.

While pets are like small children, they rarely cause their own problems. Our poor lifestyle, however, can have a negative impact on their health.

Upon entering an examination room, I can almost always tell if someone in the family is a smoker. The smoke gets into the pet’s fur and is easily detected in that small enclosed room.

It’s the same way hair and clothes would smell of smoke after a night out when smoking was allowed in clubs and bars when I was in college.

Smoking in a car or a house with your pet exposes them to secondhand smoke and thus any of the potential side effects. Pets also are exposed to something called third-hand smoke that would affect them more than us. This is the residue that remains on fur, furniture, our skin and everything in the environment, also called environmental tobacco smoke, or ETS.

One study we have in veterinary medicine involves cats exposed to ETS. These pets were 21/2 times more likely to develop lymphoma than nonexposed ones. There also is evidence that ETS can increase the risk for oral cancer in cats as well as cats are constantly grooming their fur where the smoke residue would be.

For dogs, there is evidence of increased risk of lung and nasal tumors when exposed to cigarette smoke compared with those who are not. Dogs exposed to smoke also are more likely to suffer from lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis.

Recent studies have indicated that close to 50 percent of all cats and dogs are obese. When you have a body frame designed to support 20 pounds but weighing 30, you are going to develop joint problems or, at the very least, magnify existing issues such as hip dysplasia and arthritis.

Being overweight also can make diabetes mellitus and respiratory disease symptoms worse and harder to control.

The same two factors contributing to the human obesity problem are causing obesity in our pets: inactivity and a poor diet. They gain weight when they consume more calories than they burn.

If we live an inactive lifestyle, they most likely will, too. They need exercise the same as we do to remain healthy. Take them for a walk, play fetch just get them active for at least 30 minutes a day. It will benefit you both.

Even if you feed your pet a healthy diet, they will gain weight if you feed too much. Make sure you are feeding the appropriate amount to maintain their weight.

Just like us, they are always going to want more, but do not give in.

Those little snacks throughout the day count toward their total daily caloric intake as well. The treat after going outside to potty in the morning, the leftovers from your meal and the bone before bed all add up over time.

Our lives are so busy and we have so many deadlines to meet, many of us (me included) live with frequent daily stressful events.

As the leader of the pack, you are looked to by your pet for assurance that things are safe and for guidance as to how to handle a situation.

If you are stressed, they can sense this and will be stressed as well. There is evidence in humans that stress can cause health issues.

Since animals release similar hormones in response to stress, it probably produces similar health problems in them.

One of the best things about having pets is that the things you do to prevent their stress will help your own. The No. 1 thing is spending time with them. Just sitting and petting them will not only help them to relax but also has been shown to decrease human blood pressure and stress hormones.

We forget that our lifestyle does affect our pets. Smoking, not exercising, poor diet and stress all have negative impacts on our pets’ health as well as our own. If changing habits for yourself is not enough of a motive, maybe how it impacts your pets’ health is.

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