In the United States, it is estimated that 45% of dogs and 58% of cats are overweight. This means almost 80 million pets are at risk for developing crippling arthritis, debilitating diabetes, many forms of cancer, high blood pressure, and catastrophic kidney and heart disease. Pet obesity is not healthy and will ultimately lower a pet’s life expectancy. If you’re concerned about your pet’s weight, talk to your veterinarian about how to keep your pet fit and trim.
Pet obesity exacerbates arthritis. The number one medical condition associated with excess weight is osteoarthritis. Both large and small breeds of dogs are typically affected, but cats are developing crippling arthritis at alarming rates. If your pet is carrying as little as one or two extra pounds, remember those pounds are stressing tiny joints not designed to carry extra weight. There is no cure for arthritis; we can only minimize the pain.
Obesity can increase the risk of diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects pets as well as people. Even more alarming is the fact that the prevalence of diabetes has been increasing.
Diabetes mellitus is a multifactorial disease influenced by both inherited and environmental factors. It is a metabolic disorder that occurs when the body is unable to control blood sugar levels. There are two types of diabetes, type-1 and type-2. Type-1, also known as insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, occurs when the body is unable to produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone released when blood sugar levels are high, such as after meals, and directs cells in the body to move sugar out of the blood stream and into cells for storage or energy. In type-2 diabetes, insulin is being produced but the body becomes less responsive to its effects, which is why it is also called insulin resistance or non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Regardless of the cause, both forms of diabetes result in chronically elevated blood sugar levels that damage capillaries and lead to different complications like nerve damage, kidney failure, and even death.
Genetic predisposition seems to be an important risk factor. Age is another risk factor. It is more common in middle-aged and older animals. However, of all the risk factors, obesity is the most important, especially since the prevalence of obesity is increasing.
The classic symptoms of diabetes are increased thirst, increased appetite, and increased urination. Pets may become lethargic, lose weight, have a dull coat, and in dogs, develop cataracts.
Fortunately, diabetes is manageable. With the right medications, diet and weight loss, diabetes can usually be controlled. The goal of treatment is to prevent high blood sugar or hyperglycemia and provide stable blood sugar levels. Insulin is the primary treatment for both dogs and cats. In addition to medications, diet and weight loss are just as important when it comes to treating diabetes in pets. Speak with your veterinarian about what, if any, nutritional changes are necessary for your particular pet. Weight loss is also important because obesity is a common cause of insulin resistance. To promote weight loss, you should exercise your pets in addition to following your veterinarian’s dietary suggestions. Encourage active play and exercise for both dogs and cats.
When caught early and with proper treatment, diabetes can be controlled and the complications of the disease can be delayed or even avoided.
We may not be able to change genetics or stop aging, but we can do something about obesity.
Excess fat has been implicated in the formation of many cancers in animals. The consensus is that excess weight increases a pet’s risk of developing many types of cancer. Reduce the weight to reduce the risk.
More on Pet Obesity in Part 2 next week—-