Pet Smarts: Weighing In

About a year ago, during one of his annual exams, my best friend, Mickey, was diagnosed with being a "little" overweight. I pretty much guessed this going into the appointment with him, but did not take it too seriously. Although he was only two years old, I chalked it up to his ‘casual, laid-back' persona, and to the fact that he was a cat.

Just a few weeks ago, however, I brought him back in to our veterinarian because he appeared to have a sore back. While it merely may be a result of a wrong twist, jump, or fall, there is a good indication that the ongoing pain is related to his weight. There is also a chance that the soreness may be the beginning of a spinal or joint problem that can also be aggravated by his excessive weight.

Fortunately, at present Mickey is doing well (and is on a full-time weight reduction diet). I have recognized the importance of my role in maintaining a healthy and trim feline friend.

After a little research, I have discovered that sore muscles and stiff joints are not the only problems associated with obesity in animals. Aside from reducing their enjoyment of life, overweight pets are predisposed to any of or a combination of the following:

• shorter life span
• diabetes
• heart &/or lung problems (such as high blood pressure or difficulty breathing)
• liver disease
• gastrointestinal problems (such as ulcers)
• musculoskeletal dysfunction
• immune disorders
• skin problems
• increased risk for cancer
• heat intolerance
• irritability


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Obese animals are also more susceptible to infectious diseases and can be at a greater risk for surgery and anesthetic. In direct terms, obesity can be fatal for the life of a pet.

By definition, obesity is caused by an energy intake that exceeds an animal's requirement, either by too much food or too little exercise or both. Note that a small percentage of obese animals may have endocrine abnormalities, and thus it is important to see your veterinarian if you are concerned in regards to your pet's weight. Contrary to the perception that malnutritioned animals are mostly thin and emaciated, obesity is the most prevalent form of malnutrition in dogs and cats in North America. In fact, over-eating accounts for 95% of obesity cases in animals. If your pet in only 15% over his or her ideal body weight, he will be considered overweight. For a ten pound cat, than is only an additional pound and a half.

Although excessive weight may be dangerous on a pet, it is very important to reduce the weight slowly and through the advice of a veterinarian. Ideally a pet should lose no more than 2% of his or her body weight per week, as rapid weight loss can be just as hazardous to an animal's health. For a dog that is 25% overweight, weight loss should take at least six months.

Aside from a nutritious diet, remember to add exercise to your pet's regular routine. Walking your dog daily or even just batting around a toy mouse with your cat may do wonders for your best friend and for yourself!

Michelle Froese is a freelance writer who has been published with Pagewise Inc. as well as in the New West Community Magazine and many others. You can contact her through Issues Magazine:

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