Fat Pets Aren’t Healthy Pets
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association estimates that at least 35% of Canadian dogs and cats are overweight and unfortunately, these pets are not as healthy as they otherwise might be. Excess body weight is associated with an increase of many potentially serious medical conditions that can be harmful to our furry little friends and those extra rolls can actually shorten their lifespan.
For example, degenerative joint diseases like arthritis, cruciate ligament rupture, and interverterbral disk disease are far more common in overweight pets, in part because of the increased load that your pet’s joints have to bear. However, a new understanding of the role that fat plays in the body reveals just how dangerous being overweight can be for our dogs and cats. Fat is more than just a way for your pet’s body to store unneeded energy; it’s also a major producer of hormones that affects inflammation in the body, blood pressure, blood clotting, metabolism, immune functions, reproduction, and even your pet’s healing process. Fatty tissue produces these hormones properly when a pet is close to their ideal body weight, but when a pet is considered overweight or obese, a dog or cat’s endocrine system can go haywire from these same hormones.
The list of diseases associated with obesity in pets is long, and at this point we know that in addition to musculoskeletal disorders, overweight pets are at higher than average risk for congestive heart failure, Cushing’s disease (in dogs), disorders of the skin, infections, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, diabetes mellitus (in cats), complications associated with anesthesia and surgery, hepatic lipidosis (a type of liver disease diagnosed most frequently in overweight cats), and also some types of cancer.
Studies have shown that thin pets tend to live longer than their overweight counterparts, but even if an overweight animal manages to avoid significant health problems associated with his or her condition, being overweight can significantly decrease your pet’s quality of life. For overweight pets, play and exercise become a difficult and tiring task, rather than a fun way to interact with their people and other pets.
How To Tell If Your Pet Is Obese
First, run your hands along the sides of your pet’s chest to feel the ribcage. Can you feel his ribs with just light pressure?
Next, look down on your dog or cat from above. Does he or she have a waist? In other words, is his abdomen narrower than his chest and hips?
Finally, while looking at your pet from the side, does his chest sit closer to the ground than his belly?
If you answered ‘No’ to any of these questions, there’s a good chance that you pet would benefit from losing some of the extra weight he’s carrying. Your Veterinarian is your best resource to help you develop a weight loss plan and she can also rule out any possible underlying health conditions that could be contributing to obesity.
Great Resources To Help Get Your Pet Started on a Weight Loss Plan:
Pet Weight Tracking Sheet – A free, downloadable sheet to help you monitor your pet’s weight.
Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) – A non-profit organization dedicated to reducing pet obesity with free resources including weight loss trackers, pet food calculators and more.
Learn more about the Pet Obesity Epidemic in our interview with Dr. Ernie Ward, Founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. (Segment begins at the 22:10 mark)