Common Conditions

 

OBESITY

Obesity is the second most common disease seen in cats and dogs and is a serious medical condition. It is a systemic disease, with metabolic, hormonal and immunological changes. It is associated with an increased risk of many diseases including:

  • osteoarthritis

  • cruciate ligament rupture

  • cancer, especially mammary tumours in female dogs

  • skin disease

  • diabetes mellitus

  • pancreatitis

  • tracheal collapse

  • dystocia (difficulty giving birth)

  • hepatic lipidosis (liver infiltrated by fat)

  • hypertension (high blood pressure)

  • idiopathic cystitis in cats

The only body change that has been shown to increase an animals lifespan is being lean. Being lean can increase the lifespan of an animal by 2 years, and will also result in better health during their life.

Weight loss should be slow, with an aim of 1-2% weight loss per week. An excessive rate of weight loss results in a reduced metabolic rate, reduced rate of weight loss relative to the predicted rate of weight loss, loss of muscle mass and weight gain once the diet is stopped. There are several strategies to produce weight loss:

  • Feed 80% of the amount that is currently being fed – this is usually effective as each animal has an individual metabolic rate, just like each person has an individual metabolic rate. This can be difficult if you have an animal that begs for food. This needs to include every food source, as treats given to animals can have a high caloric density, and what would be a small amount for a human can be a huge increase for a cat or dog.

  • Feed a low calorie diet – there are several diets available that have a reduced calorie quantity. These diets enable you to feed a similar volume of biscuits, and reduces begging for food by your pet. Weight loss diets are generally low fat, high fibre, high water diets to provide low caloric density and high bulk, decreasing hunger.

  • Moderate exercise – this can be walking, swimming, playing with balls or kongs (balls that can be filled with food so the animal needs to roll the ball around to get the food out), or toy mice or a light for cats. Excessive exercise can lead to a compensatory food intake and can cause joint damage in overweight animals so should be avoided.

A weight loss programme is always easier to stick to when you can see that you are getting results. Tracking the weight loss can be done by weighing the animal once a fortnight. Remember, weight loss should be slow, so it will take some time for the results to be seen, but it is well worth it. You control what food your animals get, so you have complete control over the weight they are.


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