Obesity in animals: Symptoms, causes and treatment

Obesity or excessive accumulation of body fat has become a common problem among pets these days. It can also shorten the life span of pet animals, other than impacting their overall health. Such pets may develop serious health problems like osteoarthritis, heart diseases, diabetes, respiratory problems, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.

What causes obesity in pets?

Obesity is usually caused when there is excessive dietary intake and inadequate utilisation of energy. It can affect all kinds of pets and the most common reasons are overfeeding and lack of exercise, although diseases like hypothyroidism and insulinoma can also cause obesity in pets.

Overweight pets may display symptoms like lethargy, respiratory problems, intolerance for exercise, and loss of mobility.

“The main reason for obesity in pets is the lifestyle of the owner, excess consumption of commercial food, and unbalanced feeding schedule. I always advise people to provide natural food to their pets. Other than that, old pets and the pets who are not doing well emotionally also tend to suffer from obesity,” Dr Gustavo Pinto, a veterinary doctor from Panjim, Goa, said.

However, obesity in dogs is seen more often as compared to cats or other pets. Restricting treats and frequent exercise can help monitor the weight of animals.

Not just pets, obesity has been affecting wild animals too. “I have seen a rise in obesity cases in my clinic in the last few years. Obesity is not just a rising problem in pets like dogs and cats, recently my colleague treated an obese monkey whose weight was five to six times more than the normal weight,” Dr Narendra Pardeshi, veterinarian, Small Animal Clinic, Pune, said.

Treatment, preventive tips 

Morbid obesity cannot be treated with exercise, says Dr Pardeshi who recently collaborated with Dr Shashank Shah, laparoscopic bariatric surgeon of LaparoObeso Centre, Pune, and performed the very first laparoscopic surgery of a dog suffering from hypothyroidism in the country.

Dipika, the dog was 50kg in weight, and in just a week after her surgery, her weight has reduced to 45kg. “We are expecting that the weight will reduce by 10 to 15 kg in next few weeks,” Dr Shah said. Dipika can now stand and walk on her own, which was not possible before the surgery, her owner Ms Daruwalla informed.

To save pets from obesity, every owner should take proper care of their lifestyle. A proper diet and feeding schedule should be maintained, they should be taken for regular walks and most importantly one should ensure that the pet is happy in the environment.

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