Pet Vet: Obesity in Pets

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Are you feeling those clothes fit a little too tight, or have you moved to a new wider belt hole?

The battle of the bulge isn’t just for people – it can be the same struggle with your four-legged family members.

Our Pet Vet, Dr. David Visser stopped by to discuss how you can help your pets with their growing waistline.

Pet obesity is a common problem at any time of year. And, it’s not too surprising, either, because as pet owners, we have less activity than what pets need, so pets often suffer secondary inactivity. Then, along with a pet’s natural tendency to build-up fat stores, we often end up with overweight pets.

Obesity can lead to several significant health conditions…

If there is more body than there is insulin to handle it, pets can develop diabetes. Simply stated, the pancreas, which makes insulin, becomes exhausted.

Extra weight also places extra burden on bones and joints, resulting in arthritis or other joint conditions.

Similarly, the heart becomes stressed, which can lead to failure. The liver, particularly in cats, becomes so full of fatty substances, that there isn’t any part of the liver to actually do its work.

These overweight pets are silently suffering, and have a poor quality of life, often having a shortened life span.

Weight gain related to food excess is the most common cause of obesity. Frankly, it is one of the most common diseases of pets when you call it by its real name -- a form of malnutrition.

There are several other causes that deserve equal attention.

A sedentary lifestyle, for instance, prevents a dog or cat from having the opportunity to burn off extra calories. This inactivity slows metabolism down.

Extra weight can also be a sign of a more serious condition like thyroid or adrenal disease.

Pets are affected to varying degrees. For mildly overweight pets increasing exercise can be very helpful. Purposeful activity keeps the metabolic fire burning.

It is also important to avoid the empty calories of table scraps.

In the same manner, choose pet treats that are good for the teeth, but limit them to just one or two per day.

And, low calorie food is essential if pets are starting to tip the scales, not light food.

A recent study at Tufts University evaluated 100 commercially available diets with weight management claims. The results were shocking. They showed that more than half of those diets had more calories than the standard level for “light” diets. And it correlates with what I hear and see in my hospital – people feeding these light foods and the scale isn’t showing weight control.