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Avoiding obesity in Exotic pets

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GitaBooks
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Avoiding obesity in Exotic pets

Postby GitaBooks » Fri Jun 30, 2017 8:53 pm

So I'm sure we've all heard about cats or dogs that suffered from weight problems. It's pretty common in today's society with constant food available to them and less exercise. However, what some people may not know as much about, is the health risks of over-weight exotics. Just like other animals, carrying too much weight not only is more effort, it can lead to a shorter life-span, depression, low-energy, heart-issues (heart disease, hypertension), cancer, joint issues and chronic pain, anesthetic complications, trouble breathing, blindness or sight-issues, heat intolerance, urinary bladder stones, and diabetes to name a few. Breeding animals can have trouble giving birth or laying eggs (depending on the species of course) and the extra weight can lead to trouble climbing, walking, jumping, running, and getting up.
Fat is biologically active and secretes inflammatory hormones, causing chronic, low-level inflammatory issues. This is not something you want any animal to suffer from.

Omnivores are particularly prone as they are made to eat whatever, whenever. Coons, skunks, and pigs are pretty bad about it, but carnivores can have the same issue, including wildcats, mink/polecats, and bears.
Mammals aren't the only ones that can get over-weight; birds, reptiles and amphibians can too.

Unlike dogs and cats, you can't simply go out and buy a pre-made weight-loss diet for most Exotic pets. An unlike horses and ruminates, most exotic pets can just be given hay/grass to help them loose weight. They need nutrition and enough food to sustain and remain healthy, active, and happy. So how are some ways you can help them stay fit and live long, comfortable lives?
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Don't over feed!! Even if they are cute, even if they beg, even if they seem starving, animals naturally are meant to eat what is available, so you have to make sure they only have available what they need.
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Feed healthy, natural foods. Avoid sweets, too many people foods (particularly buttery, salty, greasy or sweet foods)
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Feed healthy treats or break up meals into smaller increments. If you regularly train, lesson meals before training and use some healthy foods to encourage them instead of fatty treats. Offer small tidbits often instead of multiple large chunks
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Encourage enrichment during feeding. Hide food and treats so they have to work to find and retrieve their food
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Offer lots of opportunities for exercise and enrichment. Tunnels, trees, a yard/run, walks, play-time, a large room, if caged offer plenty of time out to run about, water to swim in, a running-wheel if it is a species that would use one, branches/ledges and ladders/ramps, ect
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During times of lower activity, such as winter, offer less food. During times of more activity, offer more
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If your animal begs or steals from you while you eat, don't eat in the same room as them or don't let them in the kitchen. It is less stressful on them and you this way
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Make sure water is always available!!!! Taking water won't help an animal loose healthy weight!!
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Don't starve while dieting or offer less nutritious food. Just feed smaller meals more often to satisfy their hunger without over-feeding. A couple large meals is less healthy for omnivores. Carnivores are more likely to eat a large meal during a sitting, but as pets they don't need this and do best with smaller meals more often as well.
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Young animals rarely become over-weight, but make sure as your animals mature you stop feeding fatty foods in such large amounts
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If one animal eats all the food while the others go hungry, feed them in separate dishes/cages/pens/rooms. Some animals do better if food is spread out on a large dish or board so they can all feed at the same time and have room to do so.


I hope this helps lead to healthier animals and happier owners!! : )

Best of luck!
Katalyst
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Re: Avoiding obesity in Exotic pets

Postby Katalyst » Sat Jul 01, 2017 5:25 pm

Obesity is a huge issue in pet/captive animals and I salute you for highlighting it.
Far too many pet skunks, foxes, snakes, dogs, cats etc etc are fat and poorly fed on low quality food in too-large quantities. It drives me insane.

Lean animals fed a quality diet in the correct quantities thrive rather than simply survive.
Red foxes, skunks, tanuki and domestic dogs.
Diet geek.

https://kaiswayridgefoxes.com
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Ana
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Re: Avoiding obesity in Exotic pets

Postby Ana » Sun Jul 02, 2017 3:25 am

I've got a fat kid. There are certainly neglectful, thoughtless habits involved in some cases, but I think to put the obesity epidemic off on solely that is both unfair and inaccurate. Of my three adult coons, only one is obese. There are obvious differences between him and the others. He sticks close to his humans, also did not lose the separation anxiety that afflicts all young coons. He is subject to bouts of upset and nervousness when left alone, or challenged with something new. He is seen by a veterinarian on a near-monthly basis, and we maintain in email contact about my tubby boy.

We've been advised by a zoologist to switch to Natural Balance low calorie dog kibble, as we gradually reduce the daily kibble rations, replacing them with fresh poultry and veg. He is never given processed sugars, candy, carbs, or "junk" food. He's never seen a marshmallow. Portion control is a real struggle for coons, and overeating is a very natural (and prudent) predilection for a coon in the wild.

Please realize, when you see a fat animal companion, there may be more to the story than lousy, thoughtless parenting. icon-sad
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GitaBooks
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Re: Avoiding obesity in Exotic pets

Postby GitaBooks » Sun Jul 02, 2017 9:25 am

Ana wrote:I've got a fat kid. There are certainly neglectful, thoughtless habits involved in some cases, but I think to put the obesity epidemic off on solely that is both unfair and inaccurate. Of my three adult coons, only one is obese. There are obvious differences between him and the others. He sticks close to his humans, also did not lose the separation anxiety that afflicts all young coons. He is subject to bouts of upset and nervousness when left alone, or challenged with something new. He is seen by a veterinarian on a near-monthly basis, and we maintain in email contact about my tubby boy.

We've been advised by a zoologist to switch to Natural Balance low calorie dog kibble, as we gradually reduce the daily kibble rations, replacing them with fresh poultry and veg. He is never given processed sugars, candy, carbs, or "junk" food. He's never seen a marshmallow. Portion control is a real struggle for coons, and overeating is a very natural (and prudent) predilection for a coon in the wild.

Please realize, when you see a fat animal companion, there may be more to the story than lousy, thoughtless parenting. icon-sad



Certainly, I really didn't mean to imply that.

We've had some fat kids in our pack too and it can be hard to find a way to work around it. I will admit most of our fat animals are due to my brothers giving too many treats, but sometimes it's because one hogs more than another and they don't eat well separate or a medical condition, anxiety, ect. Thyroid issues I know can cause obesity in dogs and during the winter our cat tends to gain a little too much to try to keep warm, even though he can come inside when ever he wants.

I should add to my above post than that if your pet ever begins to gain weight for a reason other than an increase in diet or decrease in exercise than you should see a vet, it could be something serious.

Thanks for clarifying : )
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Ana
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Re: Avoiding obesity in Exotic pets

Postby Ana » Sun Jul 02, 2017 6:51 pm

We're trying to quit kibble completely, like Remo's Dad. He's had coons that have lived to 19-21 years, and I attribute that to diet
at least in part. Tonight our boys had quinoa, grilled chicken, raw corn on the cob, raw cucumbers, a small portion of sunflower seeds,
and fresh blueberries. We're still giving 1c of the low cal kibble because when it isn't there Corso has anxiety. When any of the boys get
the idea that there is a finite amount of food, they get anxious. Nobody to the degree of Jude, but the anxiety is palpable, and they will
get right up in my face, look me in the eyes, and trill loudly. :lol: Remo uses kibble as a treat, and the vet, in conjunction with her zoologist
friend, agree that is a good idea. I've bought tilapia, whole and frozen, and I'm still trying to secure a source for local whole poultry and
chicken/duck eggs and crayfish. Jude and I both have weight drama, we get stressed, we eat. At least at this point it's healthy, nutritious
foods we're overeating, but he can sit down and destroy a BIG baked tilapia, or 75% of a whole adult chicken, then fruit, veg, some eggs.
We've cut carbs out almost completely. He's at 36lbs now, I'm so embarrassed, I have to explain it everywhere he goes, that we're working
on it. :/
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GitaBooks
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Re: Avoiding obesity in Exotic pets

Postby GitaBooks » Sun Jul 02, 2017 7:08 pm

I totally stress when my cats yowl in my face, despite being fed recently, and always give them what they want. Thankfully they stay pretty lean because they are active, but I'm just too much of a push-over with my babies. : )

I eat when I'm stressed too and I know my dog does. In fact, he is the most infamous pig of our family. He loves to sneak food when I'm not watching. He got a whole bag of dog treats the other day and was still hungry. He gets smaller meals after stealing food to make up for it, not as a punishment.
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Re: Avoiding obesity in Exotic pets

Postby TamanduaGirl » Sun Jul 02, 2017 8:19 pm

The only obese one is Aurora and she used to be the skinny one. She and Pua eat the same food and pick on and off over their wake time. They don't eat one large meal. In the wild they just eat a bit here and there as they go from nest to nest, so they just don't do that and probably have little stomachs. So cutting back any more is out. Pua doesn't need to loose weight and usually eats last.

Of course being she's as tame as a feral cat and with her extra weight and sharp claws she's like trying to hold a cranky croc, a small but strong one. So forced regular excessive isn't a realistic thing either.

Unlike other critters they are not easily bemused by anything not food related.

I'm pretty sure it's hormonal endocrine issues but we don't have norms for them. But prior to the weight gain she was the sickly skinny one so guess all in all it's a decent trade.

This is one reason I think exercise wheels are a great thing for most any exotic. Despite my experience with Ikigai most if started young and a good, properly sized wheel will use them. Aurora was already too old when I got her but with as much as Pua and Stewie loved running it would have been great for them. If I ever get another fennec from kithood again will try again but with a smaller and better made wheel next time.
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Ana
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Re: Avoiding obesity in Exotic pets

Postby Ana » Sun Jul 02, 2017 10:52 pm

They need a coon wheel. Wish we could try it out before going through the work and expense. :/
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Re: Avoiding obesity in Exotic pets

Postby TamanduaGirl » Sun Jul 02, 2017 11:37 pm

Ana wrote:They need a coon wheel. Wish we could try it out before going through the work and expense. :/


A cat wheel might work for a coon. At least if they didn't use it, then it could be resold, unless they destroyed it for fun.

I wish I had thought about "kit" and made it smaller. Was making it based on adult size and think I over did it even for that. Too bad they don't sell kitten wheels.

Maybe coons would like a climbing wheel better than a running wheel. You could make it with cross bars, maybe even with 5-6 sides so not perfectly round, then they could climb and it'd turn then climb some more.
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Ana
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Re: Avoiding obesity in Exotic pets

Postby Ana » Mon Jul 03, 2017 3:40 am

They've got a climbing activity in every room, but I'm always looking for a way to get Jude to burn a
frigging calorie. :roll:

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