Obesity in pets

In our modern life style, food is no longer serving as a basic survival need but has actually become a part of life’s pleasures. This fact is also true for pets, many pets owners are using food to spoil their pets,  hence obesity among pets is extremely common. Obesity is the most frequent nutritional problem encountered in veterinary medicine, and approximately 20-25% of the dogs and cats I see in my practice are in fact obese.
These days pets owners are getting more and more aware of the importance of preventative medical care to their pets, including vaccinations, deworming and dental cleaning, but obesity is an underestimated health problem.
In general obesity is caused when the pet eats more calories than the amount it burns by physical activity. Some medical conditions can also lead to obesity. For example hormonal imbalance such as Hypothyroidsm (slow function of the Thyroid gland) or problems in the bones, joints or muscles that greatly influence the ability to exercise.
Obesity may lead to severe consequences, these are the most common possible outcomes of obesity:
– Diabetes Mellitus: A lack of insulin. Insulin is an hormone that is secreted from the pancreas after eating, in order to shift the glucose (sugar) as an energy to the body’s tissues for their basic function. When requirements for insulin exceed the ability of the body to produce it, diabetes mellitus develops.
– High blood pressure and Heart failure: Obesity may lead to high blood pressure which puts extra load on the heart function and may eventually lead to heart failure.
– Impairment and damage of joints, ligaments and bones. Overweight animals are more prone to intervertebral disc disease, a condition that can lead to permanent paralysis. Also overweight pets are more prone to developing arthritis and to ligaments rapture. Damages to the joints, bones muscles and ligaments can lead to a vicsious cycle in which the animal becomes even less active and then gains more weight.
-Impairment of respiration.
-Obesity can affect the liver by accumulation of fat in the liver and eventually liver failure (Hepatic lipidosis or Fatty liver syndrome).
– Obese animals are more prone to developing Pancreatitis.
– Obesity also affects the reproductive system and may cause infertility and complications in delivery.
– There is a higher risk in performing anesthesia and surgical procedures in an obese animal.
-Some researches show that obese animals are more susceptible to infectious diseases.
In general an ideal body condition is when the ribs are not seen but can be easily palpable. An overweight animal is an animal in which the ribs are barely palpable. In obese pets the ribs are not palpable at all.
If you suspect that your pet might be overweight, you should take it to see your vet. The veterinarian will gather history and general details from you and will try to diagnose whether the source of the problem is nutritional or a medical problem.
Besides treating the underlying problem, if exists, the vet may suggest changing the pet’s diet to a high fiber and low calorie diet. The amount of food given should be according to the diet manufacturer’s feeding guide and should match the animal’s ideal weight calorie intake requirements. Table scraps and treats should be avoided or given in severe moderation. Encouraging physical activity is also recommended, within the limitations of the pet’s physical ability.
Maintaining healthy body condition is extremely important to your pets health, quality of life and longevity. Please consult your veterinarian about your pet’s specific body condition and the best way to keep it healthy.