Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The "O" word: part 1

Yes, that's right. The dreaded "O" word. This week's blog I'm going to talk about obesity. (Stayed tuned for the happy story of Tuff the Golden Retriever in the next part.) Since I was on track to get a degree in nutrition before switching my major to Animal Science and getting into vet school, I find all subjects related to nutrition very fascinating. There is so much cool information that is coming out of the research camps in the past few years on not just obesity, but how what we eat affects how our bodies function overall. Cool cool stuff!

But back on track to the obesity topic. I think it is pretty well agreed on by the medical community that obesity is indeed a disease and not just a cosmetic problem. Having a high percentage of body fat does really strange things to metabolism and actually causes inflamation in the body. There have been many studies that have shown how deadly obesity is not only in people, but in dogs too. One of the best known studies was Purina's life span study that was published in 2002. You can find some of the study information at Purina's web site
http://www.longliveyourdog.com/ and click on the link to the life span study. This is such an oversimplification of the findings, but basically, the thin dogs in the study lived 1.8 years longer on average. I don't know about you, but I would certainly like my dogs to live longer. Their lifespans are too short as it is.

Cats have kind of received the short end of the stick in the past, but obesity surely effects them too and also in deadly ways. Not to worry though, there are some research projects ongoing and we should all know a lot more in the next few years. Some of the questions I hope will be answered are how a dry food diet affects cats. There has been some speculation that carbohydrate based diets (i.e. dry food diets) lead to obesity in cats. Is it because cats metabolize carbohydrates differently than dogs? Or is it that dry food diets are more calorie dense than wet food diets so cats just plain eat more calories than if they ate canned food? The story is unfolding.

Some of the diseases that we see much more often in our overweight and obese patients include:

  • osteoarthritis
  • diabetes (cats)
  • ruptured cruciate ligaments (dogs)
  • breathing difficulty
  • skin infections

For more reading, there is a very good web site at www.petobesityprevention.com. In next week's blog, I'll show you a picture of Tuff and tell you his weight loss story. I'll talk about how you can tell if your dog or cat is overweight or not. And best of all, what we as pet owners can do to either prevent or treat obesity.

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