Obesity, Pets, and Nutrition
Just curious—how many of you have dogs or cats that help themselves to the cookie jar to grab those delicious chocolate chunk cookies or even their own yummy treats? How about the freezer to munch on that Haagen Dazs straight out of the container (as I do!!)?
Well, given how we often like to think that our pets mimic our personalities and behaviors, it should come as no surprise that obesity is the most common nutritional disorder affecting dogs and cats in the United States! In fact, it has been estimated that up to 50% of dogs and cats in this country are overweight or, worse yet, obese. Though many would like to blame this on some obscure metabolic disorder, the fact is that obesity in our pets is a result of the same simple practice that leads to our own obesity—eating too much and exercising too little! We are what we eat, and so too are our pets! The difference is we are in absolute control of what we stuff into our own mouths, our pets, however, don’t have that power—they have to rely on us for what is “stuffed” into their mouths! No wonder 75% of obese pets belong to owners who themselves can afford to lose a few!
Obesity is defined as an accumulation of excess body fat resulting in body weights over 15% of optimum. This condition can potentially impair the health, quality of life and life span of affected pets. The incidence of obesity seems to increase with age and with spaying and neutering because there is a reduction of both metabolic rate and physical activity associated with both of these conditions. It is especially important to keep your puppies and kittens lean because 70% of obese puppies and kittens grow up to be obese dogs and cats!
Some breeds of dogs like Labrador Retrievers, Dachshunds, Miniature Schnauzers, Welsh Corgis, Cocker Spaniels, and Beagles seem to be genetically predisposed to excessive weight gain. Though not nearly as common as we would like to think, there are a few disease conditions in animals that may be associated with excess weight gain, such as hypothyroidism, which is an undersecretion of the thyroid gland; hyperadrenocorticism (also known as Cushing's Syndrome), an over secretion of the adrenal gland; diabetes mellitus, and insulinoma, an insulin producing tumor. Overweight dogs are often predisposed to a variety of conditions such as joint and locomotor problems, ruptured cruciate ligaments,