We love our pets, so it seems only natural to indulge them with a few extra treats. Sometimes too much kindness can put our furry companions at risk.
The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) states 45 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats are classified as overweight or obese. While some of the conditions may be scarcely noticeable, others may require expensive medical intervention or can become life-threatening. Here we’ll discuss some common obesity-related illnesses that affect cats and dogs, and offer a few tips to help you keep your pet at a healthy weight.
Obesity-related Diseases in Cats
Urinary Tract Disease: Urinary tract disease, including urethral blockage in male cats is among the most common disorders affecting obese felines. Some feline urinary conditions can progress quickly to uremia (a toxic state that occurs if the animal is unable to pass urine), which can be life-threatening. Veterinary care to correct a blockage can cost over $2,000.
Kidney Disease: Kidney disease—while not limited to overweight cats—can progress more quickly and be harder to treat id the animal is obese. Kidney problems can be life-threatening and treatment plans can entail chronic care management.
Diabetes: As in humans, obesity puts cats at risk for diabetes. Management of the disorder requires careful and often lifelong care, and diabetes has been linked to shortened lifespan in cats. Feline diabetes treatment may include prescription food, injectable medications and increased veterinary visits.
Liver Disease: The liver is the organ most responsible for processing and storing fats. If the liver becomes overtaxed by fat storage, it can be less efficient in performing its other functions, such as filtration of toxins. Feline fatty liver disease ranges in variety and severity—symptoms including muscle wasting, jaundice and vomiting. Beyond prevention, early diagnosis is a key factor in successful treatment.
Cardiovascular Disease: The risks for both hypertension and heart failure increase dramatically in obese cats. Obesity causes your cat’s heart to work harder and can shorten your pet’s lifespan. Persistent feline hypertension is manageable with medication, whereas heart failure is significantly more damaging and costly to treat.
Obesity-related Diseases in Dogs
Urinary Tract Disease: Though dogs are not prone to urinary blockage like cats, they do often experience infections of the urethra and bladder, which can be painful and chronic.
Arthritis & Orthopedic Problems: Carrying excess weight places an added burden on your dog’s muscles, joints, and bones. Stressed joints can become inflamed and painful, further limiting your dog’s ability and willingness to exercise. Cruciate knee repair can cost over $4,000 (per knee); and the increased burden on the healthy knee can lead to additional knee injury. Note: Most pet insurance policies enforce waiting periods for knee coverage, so it is important to read your policy terms carefully.
Hypothyroidism: The thyroid is an essential gland that regulates metabolism. In dogs, a sluggish or underactive thyroid can cause or exacerbate obesity. If you notice a sudden or unexplained weight gain in your dog, ask your vet to check your pet’s thyroid hormone levels.
Fatty Tumors (Lipomas): As they age some dogs develop fatty tumors called lipomas. While these are benign, they can if unchecked hinder a dog’s mobility and make it more difficult for vets to diagnose any cancerous growths that may also be present.
Diabetes: As in humans and cats, obesity is often linked to diabetes. Since diabetes is a chronic illness, treatment is ongoing and can cost thousands of dollars. Keeping an eye toward prevention can save both you and your pet a lot of physical and financial pain.
How Can You Tell if Your Pet is Obese?
Checking that your pet is at a healthy weight is easy. With your animal standing and relaxed, place your hands gently around its midsection. You should be able to feel the ribs and spine easily, and most pets should have a slight slimming in the area between the ribs and the hips. If it is hard to feel the rib cage or spine, or if your animal has a “tubular” rather than an hourglass shape, you should consider a trip to the vet to discuss a weight-management program for your pet.
How Can You Help Your Pet Maintain a Healthy Weight?
As in humans, maintaining a healthy weight often depends on the proper balance between diet and exercise. You can begin by limiting your pet’s diet to a veterinarian-approved food (sorry, no table scraps!) and ensuring that your pet gets at least a half hour of exercise (running, playing, hiking, swimming, jumping) daily even in the winter. Also, if your pet is obese, your veterinarian can suggest a diet and exercise regimen tailored to your pet’s age, health, and existing medical conditions. A little prevention now can save both you and your pet from future discomfort and expense.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.