We all know that food is the basic need for one’s existence.
However, food has taken a huge role in our lives, far beyond fuel for survival.
In fact, in our modern lifestyle, there is a great controversy or even a cognitive dissonance if you will, around food.
On one hand, food is used for pleasure, for comfort and self soothing, for socialization, creativity and more.
While simultaneously, the awareness for healthy lifestyle, ideal body weight, fitness and very selective and particular food consumption are rising tremendously.
Using food for other means, far beyond fueling the body, has also affected many pet owners.
People are using food as training rewards, or just as a treat.
Along the years of raising pet evolution, the animals have moved from living outdoors in the wild, nourishing and existing on prey, to living indoors, enjoying various types of human food and table scraps as an integral part of the family.
Obesity is not just a huge problem in people in North America, but also their pets.
Obesity is the most frequent nutritional disorder encountered in veterinary medicine, and approximately 25 to 30 per cent of the dogs and cats I see in my practice are, in fact, obese.
These days pets owners are getting more and more aware of the importance of preventative medical care for their pets.
Pet owners are very proactive, and routinely maintain a variety of preventative treatments such as vaccinations, deworming, dental cleaning and more.
However, obesity is probably the most underestimated and overlooked health problem our pets suffer.
In fact, many people are mistaken by interpreting an obese animal as a healthy animal, and sickness is only associated with being under-weight.
In general an ideal body condition is when the ribs are not seen but can be easily palpable.
An overweight animal is an animal in which the ribs are barely palpable. In obese pets the ribs are not palpable at all.
Lets face it, most people’s biggest concern regarding their own obesity is their looks, where in animals this factor is absent.
Moreover, a chubby animal is many times perceived as being more cute.
However, numerous studies have demonstrated that obesity can have detrimental effects on the health and longevity of dogs and cats.
The medical problems to which obese companion animals may be predisposed include:
• Diabetes mellitus: We all know that food is our fuel. Food contains the energy our body needs for its basic function. Insulin is a hormone that is responsible for shifting the energy coming originally from the food, into the body’s tissues and organs as energy for their functions.
Diabetes is a condition with two forms—lack of insulin, or inability of the body’s tissues to respond to insulin.
Obesity can lead to both types of diabetes. In case of excessive eating, the insulin gets depleted due to overwhelming demand of it.
In the other form of diabetes, the insulin secretion is normal, but due to the excess of fat in the body’s tissues, the tissues are becoming non-responsive to the insulin.
• High blood pressure and heart failure: Obesity may lead to high blood pressure which puts extra load on the heart function and may eventually lead to heart failure.
• Various orthopedic problems: Impairment and damage of joints, ligaments and bones.
Overweight animals are more prone to intervertebral disc disease, a condition that can lead to permanent paralysis.
Overweight pets are also more prone to developing arthritis and ligament rupture.
Damages to the joints, bones muscles and ligaments can lead to a vicious cycle in which the animal becomes even less active and then gains more weight.
• Impairment of respiration: Obesity can affect the liver by accumulation of fat in the liver and eventually liver failure (hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver syndrome).
Obese cats are especially sensitive and prone to this condition.
Obese animals are more prone to developing pancreatitis.
Obesity also affects the reproductive system and may cause infertility and complications in delivery.
There is a higher risk in performing anesthesia and surgical procedures in an obese animal.
Some research shows that obese animals are more susceptible to infectious diseases.
Numerous factors may predispose an individual to obesity.
Beside the food the animal consumes, other factors include genetics and the amount of physical activity the animal gets.