Obesity in pets
Obesity in pets occurs when excessive adipose tissue accumulates in the body, and is generally defined as occurring when an animal's body weight is at least 20% greater than its optimal body weight. Obesity is associated with metabolic and hormonal changes.
Weight gain will occur when an animal is in a positive energy balance, meaning energy provided as calories in the diet exceed calories expended. Evidence suggests that middle-aged cats and dogs, especially those between the ages of 5 and 10, may be at an increased risk of obesity. This is supported by studies showing that as cats age from 2 years to approximately 11.5 years of age their energy requirements decreased. Weight gain will occur if calories from the diet do not decrease with the animal’s energy requirements.
Obesity in pets is usually due to excessive food intake or lack of physical exercise. Owners may view food as a way to reward and treat their pets, which contributes to overfeeding. Pets confined to a house or small yard which are not regularly exercised are more prone to obesity.
The risk of obesity in dogs (but not in cats) is related to whether or not their owners are obese.
In cats, neutering increases the risk of obesity, partly because the alteration in sex hormones after neutering lowers the basal metabolic rate, and partly because neutered cats have a reduced inclination to roam compared to non-neutered cats.
Weight management has two steps: weight loss and weight maintenance. In the weight loss phase, energy intake from food must be less than the energy expended each day. Achieving weight loss in cats and dogs is challenging, and failure to lose weight is common.
Medical treatments have been developed to assist dogs in losing weight. Dirlotapide (brand name Slentrol) and mitratapide (brand name Yarvitan) were authorized for use in the EU by the European Medicines Agency for helping weight loss in dogs, by reducing appetite and food intake, but both of these drugs have been withdrawn from the market in the EU. The US Food and Drug Administration approved dirlotapide in 2007. Up to 20% of dogs treated with either dirlotapide or mitratapide experience vomiting and diarrhea; less commonly, anorexia may occur. When these drugs are stopped, the dog's appetite returns to previous levels. If other weight-loss strategies are not employed, the dog will again gain weight.
Compared to non-obese animals, obese dogs and cats have a higher incidence of osteoarthritis (joint disease) and diabetes mellitus, which also occur earlier in the life of the animal. Obese animals are also at increased risk of complications following anesthesia or surgery.
Obese dogs are more likely to develop urinary incontinence, may have difficulty breathing, and overall have a poorer quality of life compared to non-obese dogs, as well as having a lower life expectancy. Obese cats have an increased risk of diseases affecting the mouth and urinary tract. Obese cats which have difficulty grooming themselves are predisposed to dry, flaky skin and feline acne.
Society and culture
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