21 February 2008

Fat Cats, Diabetic Dogs Vex Veterinarians

by Kate Melville

Obesity isn't only a problem for humans. The serious implications obesity has for heart disease, diabetes and other maladies are now also becoming evident in our four-legged friends - in record numbers.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, the prevalence of obesity in dogs is between 22 and 40 percent. Predictably enough, the reasons for the problem seem to mirror the human experience, with decreased physical activity, age, and an increased caloric intake, being the main culprits.

According to Virginia Tech's Dr. Craig Thatcher, the lead researcher of the study, genetics can also increase a pet's risk of being overweight. Labrador retrievers, beagles, and cocker spaniels are all breeds that are more like to carry some extra pounds.

Like humans, there are also many health problems associated with being obese. Dogs and cats that are overweight may be predisposed to develop diabetes mellitus. They may also suffer from decreased heat tolerance and stamina, increased dermatological conditions, decreased immune function, and multiple musculoskeletal and orthopedic problems.

"Avoiding obesity is an important part of the overall wellness of an animal," said Thatcher. "Pets and their owners alike will enjoy a much higher quality of life when the pet maintains a healthy weight."

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Source: Virginia Tech