Has the U.S. become the nation of too much?  When it comes to weight, yes we have!   Pet obesity has become a huge, no pun intended, health issue for both dogs and cats in this country.

How to Tell if Your Pet is Over Weight

1)    Run your hands down the side of your pet with medium pressure.  You should be able to feel ribs under a thin layer of subcutaneous fat.  If you can’t your pet is probably too heavy.

2)    If you feel your pet is too heavy bring them in for a more precise body measurement.  This set of measurements can determine exactly how over weight your pet is and what a good target weight is.

Causes of Obesity

1)    Sometimes obesity is just a matter of too much food and too little activity. 

2)    However, obesity can also be rooted in other issues. 

  •      Hypothyroidism
  •      Cushing’s Disease
  •      Diabetes:  Diabetes can be caused by too much weight but can also be the                 cause of weight gain if an animal develops non-insulin dependent diabetes.  Confusing but ultimately weight loss will help both.
  •     Any disease process that affects the hypothalamus or pituitary gland:  The hypothalamus regulates appetite and the pituitary gland regulates most hormone production in the body.
  •   Breed:  Beagles, Labs, Bassets, Cattle dogs, Cockers, Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Golden Retrievers and most cats to name a few.
  •   Age: Just like us as pets age their metabolic rate slows and the tendency to become over weight increases.
  • Neutering and Spaying: When they are not hormone driven animals will put on weight more easily.  That said the benefits of altering your pet far outweigh the negatives.
  •  Activity level:  Too many pets spend all their time inside with too little activity.  This is a particular challenge for cat owners.
  • Food quality:  The quality of food we feed has improved.  Pets need less to stay fit and healthy.  Conversely if you have a finicky pet who has trained you to only feed them high caloric “junk food” they will quickly become overweight.
  •     Medications:  Glucocorticoids, Anti-seizure drugs and  tranquilizers can all contribute to weight gain.

 Health risks associated with obesity

1)    Diabetes:   When food intake and body mass out strip the body’s ability to make insulin, Diabetes Mellitus develops.

2)     Heart and blood pressure disease:  The heart has to work much harder in overweight pets.  That leads directly to high blood pressure and heart disease.

3)    Bone/Joint damage:  Extra weight leads to increased stress on bones and ligaments. Almost all of our cruciate repairs could use a little weight loss.

4)    Respiratory problems:  Too much fat makes for a greater work load and puts extra pressure on the lungs and trachea. If you own a dog or cat with a shortened, also known as brachycephalic, facial structure this can cause serious health problems.  Likewise, many of our collapsing trachea dogs show improvement with weight loss.

5)    Increased anesthetic risk:  What happens if you have a lot of fat and your anesthetic is fat soluble?  You wake up more slowly.  How much harder is it to perform surgery in an abdomen that is full of fat?  A lot harder.  Has obesity been shown to decrease resistance to bacteria?  Yes.

6)    Decreased lifespan and quality of life:  Everything mentioned above will shorten your pets’ life.  It will also seriously impinge on their ability to enjoy the life they have.

On the next blog we will talk about strategies for weight loss.