Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pet Obesity....Who is responsible?

Obesity, according to Webster is “….excessive body fat. It is usually caused by sedentary habits and a diet high in fat, alcohol, or total calories. Calories consumed but not used are stored as fat. Rare causes include glandular defects and excess steroids (see Cushing syndrome). Obesity raises the risk of heart disease and diabetes mellitus. Treatment, by reducing calorie intake and increasing exercise, is best undertaken with a doctor's advice.”

Obviously, the above definition of obesity refers to humans, not animals.  So, my question to you is…… how do pets become obese? 

There are a few metabolic disease conditions that will make a pet more likely to gain and retain weight.  Among these are hypothyroidism and hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease), just like humans.  Each of these conditions are coupled with highlighting clinical signs other than weight gain that usually prompt a visit to the vet’s office.  So I ask again, how does a pet become obese?

The answer is really quite easy.  A pet becomes obese because his or her owner feeds too much and doesn’t exercise their beloved pet enough. 

The most current statistics released on pet obesity state that OVER half of all pet dogs and cats are OBESE, not just overweight, but obese.  Obesity is a state of whole body inflammation.  Fat cells release the stress hormone, cortisol.  This cortisol increases free radical release and destruction of cells within the body.  Pets that are overweight have been found to live 2 years LESS than those kept within their healthy body weight.

So why do we insist on loving our pets with food, treats, and gourmet snacks?  Instead, I would like to invite you to think outside of the box.  Instead of buying or cooking your pet special snacks, set aside some special time and go for a walk, run, or swim.  There are so many pet-friendly businesses now that your pet can even run errands with you.

In the following months, I will outline the strategy for helping “Skinny” (the infamously obese cat) lose weight.  This is a VERY precarious situation and one that I, and my colleagues working with East Lake Pet Orphanage, take quite seriously. Wish us luck, and stay tuned!

Skinny weighs more than the average 4 year old child.

Skinny says, "Rub my belly!"

1 comment:

  1. While I do believe that many owners overfeed and under-exercise their dogs, perhaps it's time we ask ourselves a question "is that all that is to blame?"

    Perhaps it's time to look at the food itself and evaluate whether the type of food, not only the amount, is behind this ever-increasing problem. All main stream dog foods are loaded with carbohydrates. Yet, according to the AAFCO, dogs have NO requirements for nutritional carbohydrates. So if they don't need ANY and most diets derive at least 50% of the caloric value from carbohydrates, wouldn't that have to have SOME effect on them?

    I think somebody should really evaluate this situation, rather than blaming it ALL on owners.