Dr. Dermody Talks about Obesity in Des Moines Pets

by Dr Terri Dermody at Ingersoll Animal Hospital in Des Moines, IA

If there was a pet version of “The Biggest Loser”, could your pet be a contestant?

Obesity has become an extremely important health problem for our pets – frequently seen at your Des Moines veterinary clinic. Thirty-five percent or more of our dogs and cats in Des Moines and national wide are obese! There are so many side-effects of pet obesity that we will only be able to mention a few of the more significant problems here.

Excess fat puts pressure on all of our bones. This extra stress both leads to and worsens arthritis, and creates more and more pain as the joint stress and arthritis progresses. This situation becomes even worse when the joint pain leads to poorer mobility, which in turn leads to greater obesity. Weight loss should be the FIRST and is the BEST “treatment” for an arthritic pet! Your Des Moines veterinary clinic -and veterinarians nationwide – use a multi-modal approach to treat for arthritis ….acupuncture, glucosamines/chondroitan, fatty acids, and often more than one pain medication. Weight loss alone can markedly decrease the need for these treatments. If weight loss is NOT included as part of the treatment, these treatments will not be nearly as effective, and your pet will suffer the consequences.

In the obese pet, fat acts like a constricting jacket around its chest. The pet is then less able to take deep breaths, and so more work is required to move those respiratory muscles. If areas of the lung are unable to inflate, coughing results.

Overweight cats are more susceptible to a particular life-threatening liver disease. They also are prone to urinary problems such as feline lower urinary tract disease, which can be fatal if undetected.

Fat can have a negative effect on the heart and the body’s blood vessels. Fat also affects the role of the pancreas, and so increases the possibility of Diabetes in our pets. Cats are especially at risk of developing Diabetes as a result of obesity.

Fat as an organ sends out inflammatory signals. An overweight animal is essentially in a chronic, inflammatory state, which has a long-term negative effect on the pet’s overall health.

The first way to help our Des Moines pets stay trim is to closely monitor their daily caloric intake. Our pets are 100% dependent on us, so why are we feeding them too much? We should not assume that when our pets beg that they are begging for food! They are begging for attention, and we need to change our attitudes about how we interact with them. Giving them table scraps is not good for them. Why? First of all, a one ounce piece of cheese for a mid-sized dog such as a beagle is equal to 1 1/2 hamburgers to us. Many pet treats are also very high in calories, and 4 or 5 treats can easily mean an extra meal of added fat!

The second way for us to help our pets stay healthy is to exercise them. The Healthcare Team at your Des Moines veterinary clinic recommends you take your dog for a walk, or get an interactive toy and play with your cat! Exercise is not just a healthy thing to do for your pet, but is another way for you to enhance your bond. Gunard Petersen has developed exercises that you can do with your dog or cat. You can find these exercises as well as other informative facts on the website: www.petfit.com.

A study of Labrador retrievers found that dogs that were kept at the slim side of normal lived a median of 2 1/2 years longer than their overweight counterparts. Love your pets, reward them with healthy diets and exercise, and enjoy them for as many years as possible! Please contact your Des Moines veterinary clinic or the Healthcare Team at Ingersoll Animal Hospital at 515-274-3555 with any questions.