If you’re like many of us you’d like to get healthier in the New Year. Why not include our pets in our New Year’s Resolution to get in shape and maybe drop a few pounds? If you’ve watched the news you’ve probably seen many health reports about the obesity epidemic in our country. Sadly, this epidemic affects our beloved fur babies as well. It is estimated that up to 35% of dogs and cats in America are overweight, which can contribute to several serious health issues. 1
The first of these issues is arthritis. Arthritis is a chronic and progressive deterioration of the cartilage in the joints, which can then cause pain, decreased range of motion, and swelling. A common misconception is that arthritis and hip dysplasia are the same thing. Arthritis can affect the hip joints, and hip dysplasia can contribute to degenerative changes in the joints, but they are not synonymous. Years ago we thought only large breed dogs suffered from arthritis. Now we know that smaller dogs and cats can also suffer the chronic pain associated with arthritis. Carrying just a few extra pounds can cause increased stress on joints, including the intervertebral discs in the back. Studies have shown that weight loss alone can decrease and sometimes even eliminate the need for pain control medication in these patients. Sadly, obesity and arthritis can lead to a vicious cycle, because the more overweight a pet becomes, the poorer their mobility, increasing the likelihood of more weight gain.
Another common issue seen in obese patients, particularly cats, is diabetes. Extra body fat can lead to insulin resistance in cats. Obese cats have been found to have up to 50% decrease in insulin sensitivity, which can lead to chronically elevated blood glucose. Unfortunately, many cats will require life-long insulin administration to manage diabetes.
Respiratory issues are also frequently seen in overweight dogs and cats, particularly the brachycephalic (flat faced) breeds. Having extra weight around the chest area can decrease the pet’s ability to breathe deeply, which can contribute to fatigue of respiratory muscles, heatstroke, chronic cough and tracheal collapse.
The key to successful weight loss is to burn more calories than are consumed. it sounds easy when we say it like that, but in fact it can be a challenge. If it were easy there would be no problem. The challenge is well worth the effort once we realize the health benefits we can offer our pets by helping them drop the excess weight. Eliminating “people food” and starting on a diet designed to help utilize calories more efficiently can be the first step to a healthier lifestyle for our fur babies.
Please ask our staff about the Hill’s Pet Nutrition Weight Loss Challenge we just started. Hill’s is kicking off this program to provide pet owners with the resources and tools to help us help out pets start the New Year off on the right foot.
1 – “The Healthy Pet Library” , Wendy C. Brooks, DVM, DABVP
-Beth Eubanks, DVM