Around 56% of cats and dogs are overweight or obese in the United States. A new study from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention says, “The majority of the nation’s dogs and cats continue to be overweight, and most pet owners aren’t aware of the problem.” Close to 100% of owners, or pet parents, if you prefer, incorrectly identified their overweight dogs as being normal weight. Ask your vet for a picture of a normal weight pet and you may be surprised at your own faulty perceptions.
What conditions can pet obesity cause?
This misunderstanding about what a normal weight pet looks like leads to terrible health challenges for the pet.
- Type II Diabetes
- High Blood Pressure
- Certain cancers
These conditions are unheard of in nature. And they can cut the pet’s life expectancy dramatically. And just like their human counterparts, the extra weight can cause a reduction in the quality of that shorter life due to joint pain, fatigue, illness, blood clots, digestion issues, respiratory issues, and even depression.
It is estimated that as many as 2% of pets have diabetes. Diabetes is caused by a failure of the insulin produced in the body to be able to break down sugars. When sugars cannot be broken down, and used by the body for energy, they wreak havoc on the body, before being expelled through urination, leading to fatigue, poor circulation, organ failure, lost eyesight, nerve pain and even lost limbs.
Early warning signs include:
- Excessive Urination and thirst
- Unexplained weight loss
- complete loss of appetite
- severe lethargy (tiredness) and depression
A pet with diabetes may require a daily insulin shot to help the body convert sugar to energy. Without it, the condition will continue to progress, resulting in the worst of the symptoms.
It is unknown just how common high blood pressure is in pets because until recently it was not measured due to lack of reliable equipment for pets. But vets today will often take this measure.
High blood pressure is known as the “silent killer” because it is difficult to know if someone is suffering until it has already done significant damage.
At later stages seizures, circling, disorientation, blindness, blood in urine can occur.
But over time, high blood pressure causes arteries to burst, meaning that life giving blood cannot effectively get to where it is supposed to go. Pets do not tend to get strokes like humans, but most commonly this high pressure damages the kidneys and eyes.
Treatment for high blood pressure will first be treating the underlying cause, which may mean losing weight. Beyond that, the pet may need medications like beta-blockers.
Obesity-related pet cancers are often in the form of malignant (bad) tumors that may be on the inside affecting organ function or on the outside. Some cancers are operable; others will require radiation therapy. If untreated, the pet will slowly and likely painfully die. There’s no nice way to say it.
Your pet relies on you to make healthy decisions for him or her. To help assure that your pet stays a normal weight you need to do the following:
- Educate yourself about what normal weight looks like. It is not skin and bones, but it may be much closer to it than you think.
- Only feed pets quality food. Discount pet foods and table scraps do not provide pets with what they need.
- Make sure your pet gets exercise. Take your dog to the park or let her run around the yard. Find friends for your pet. If your pet is 100% indoors, make sure there is room in your house to jump and play. And don’t discourage antics just because you’re watching TV. That’s how they exercise.
Have a healthy, happy pet by knowing the signs and doing what’s right for your pet.