Kenosha Animal Hospital

6223 39th Avenue
Kenosha, WI 53142


Pet Obesity - Part 5

In Part I, some of the problems associated with obesity were introduced.  This article will focus in greater detail on two of these complications. If we are overweight, we probably hear about weight related problems all of the time, either from our doctor, family and friends and/or television shows such as Oprah or The Biggest Loser. Our pets are prone to develop many of the same problems. Excessive weight endangers the heart and cardiovascular system, the lungs and joints; but other ailments such as diabetes, liver and kidney disease, skin and hair coat problems and even cancer can result from chronic obesity. In fact, every organ in the body is adversely affected by this condition, leading to the realization that obesity is truly a primary medical condition, which usually results in the degenerative secondary conditions already mentioned. This concept originated with the discovery of the hormone Leptin in 1994, considered by most researchers to be the most important breakthrough in the study of obesity. Since that time, new discoveries are continually being made, uncovering the complex factors that contribute to this serious disease. Today, the study of obesity is second only to cancer in research funding by the National Institute of Health.

Two of the most visible problems related to obesity in the dog is osteoarthritis and impaired respiratory function, and unfortunately, many pet owners do not associate these with their pet's weight problem, because obesity is an insidious condition that develops over time. It is now universally accepted that there is a direct correlation between chronic obesity and the development of osteoarthritis in weight and nonweight bearing joints, due primarily to the release of certain inflammatory chemicals by the fat cells of these patients, disrupting the normal balance of joint fluid, cartilage and bone within the joint. The stress of excessive weight on the joints is also a contributing factor, although not as important until the patient becomes morbidly obese.

Normal respiratory function is very often affected by chronic obesity, ranging from exercise intolerance to life-threatening medical emergencies such as collapsing trachea and heat stroke. These problems are associated more with the degree of excessive weight than with chemical production, as clinical studies have shown a significant decrease in lung expansion and dangerously increased efforts required during breathing.

If we can reduce or even eliminate these or any other consequences of obesity in our pets by simply helping them maintain a proper BCS (Body Condition Score), the fight against pet obesity is a battle worth winning.

In the next article, I will discuss the fat cell, and how it can evolve from being the storage organ for fatty acids and energy to a dangerous metabolically active secretory tissue.