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Pet Weight and Health

Many owners don't think much about their pet's weight; however, obesity in pets can lead to many of the same health issues that we see in overweight people. Over the years, the extra pounds can even shorten your pet's life!

A recent study showed that "ideal weight" labradors lived an average of 2 years longer than their overweight counterparts. Also, overweight pets often suffer from health problems that degrade their quality of life in their later years.

Health Problems:

There are many health problems associated with a pet being overweight. These problems, ranging from minor pain to life-threatening illnesses, can be seen in dogs, cats, small mammals and even birds:

Arthritis: Your pet's body size can "weigh" heavily on their joints and spine. Over time this extra pressure can lead to the inflammation and bony changes known as arthritis. Arthritic joints cause chronic pain and may result in your pet "slowing down" before their time. It can also create a need for daily medication to lessen the pain.

Lethargy: Heavy pets may have a significantly lower tolerance for exercise, resulting in general lethargy. This lethargy may simply be the result of your pet being "out of shape", or may be due to a larger health problem brought on by excess weight. In any case, the end result may mean that your pet does not have the energy to enjoy its life to the fullest.

Diabetes: Just as with people, overweight pets are at a higher risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes is frighteningly common in overweight cats, but can also be diagnosed in dogs and other pets. Once diagnosed, diabetes can be hard to regulate and manage, requiring daily medication and frequent veterinary visits.

Heart Disease: Being overweight puts a lot of unnecessary strain on an animal's heart. All that extra body mass means that the heart is pumping harder and more often than it was designed to. Over time, this extra work can damage the heart and ultimately lead to heart failure.

Clogged Arteries: Overweight pets can suffer from clogged arteries, just as their owners can. While it is not tremendously common in dogs and cats (because they don't live long enough for the plaque to build up) it is very common in pet birds. Clogged, thickened arteries (arteriosclerosis) is usually caused by years of eating fatty foods (such as seeds and nuts), being sedentary and being overweight. As with humans, arterial sclerosis can lead to heart disease or even stroke.

Knowing the dangers that being overweight presents, it is obvious that being at a healthy weight is as important for pets as it is for people. Luckily, the keys to a healthy weight are the same for pets as for people: health, exercise, and diet.