Our animals are increasingly obese, but we can help them get healthy.
By Deborah Linder/The Conversation | Featured on Popular Science
When I looked at my appointment book for the day, I thought something must be wrong. Someone who worked in the fitness industry was bringing his cat in to the Tufts Obesity Clinic for Animals. Did he confuse us for a different kind of weight management clinic? Is he looking to get muscle on his cat or maybe kitty protein shakes? I was utterly surprised when I called for my appointment in the lobby and an athletic man stood up with an almost 20-pound cat!
I asked if I could speak bluntly with him. Why does someone who clearly knows a lot about keeping healthy need to bring his cat to a veterinary nutritionist? What would he say if the cat was one of the people he helps to keep fit every day? Our conversation then went something like this… “Well, I’d tell her, suck it up, buttercup. Do some kitty pushups and no more treats!” “Well, I have to ask, then, what’s stopping you from doing this with your cat?”
With a worried look of guilt on his face, he replied, “Well, Dr. Linder, I mean… she meows at me…” This was the moment I realized that I was treating pet obesity all wrong. I needed to focus less on the pet and more on the relationship between people and their pets. That’s what’s literally cutting the lives short of the dogs and cats we love so much.
An obese pet isn’t a happy pet
As with humans, obesity in pets is at epidemic proportions. Over half of the dogs and cats around the globe battle the bulge.
While overweight pets may not face the same social stigma as humans, medical and emotional damage is being done all the same. Obesity in animals can cause complications in almost every system in the body, with conditions ranging from diabetes to osteoarthritis.
Owners often say they don’t care if their pet is “fat”—there’s just more of them to love! It’s my job to then let them know there’s less time to provide that love. A landmark lifespan study showed Labradors who were 10-20 percent overweight—not even obese, which is typically defined as greater than 20 percent—lived a median 1.8 years shorter than their trim ideal weight counterparts.
Another study shows that obesity indeed has emotional consequences for pets. Overweight pets have worse scores in vitality, quality of life, pain, and emotional disturbance. However, the good news is those values can improve with weight loss.
Furthermore, humans struggle to succeed even in the best conditions—and so do pets. In one study, dogs on a weight-loss program were only successful 63 percent of the time.
Oregon Veterinary Specialty Hospital (OVSH) has been serving the Portland and Beaverton area community since 1979. Dr. Robert T. Franklin (Internal medicine) welcomes referrals from veterinarians all over the Pacific Northwest. Our goal is to help your pet regain health and live a long and happy life.
Oregon Veterinary Specialty Hospital
9339 SW Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy,
Beaverton, OR 97005.