As with humans, obesity in pets is a catalyst for several dangerous medical conditions. According to Petplan claims data, the most common maladies resulting from overweight pets include severe immobility, fractures, spinal disc disease, heart disease, hip dysplasia and ligament tears.
Most health problems are exacerbated by excess weight. They are also conditions that wind up costing pet owners the most money. Many pet parents don’t think about the financial cost of an overweight pet until it’s too late; when they find out the going rate for a hip replacement is $5,000, there’s some sticker shock – especially if they do not have pet insurance.
Of the top 20 most commonly claimed diseases, at least eight of them can be directly caused by or exacerbated by obesity:
- Lameness – sometimes a catch-all term for general limping; often caused by arthritis.
- Cruciate Injuries – CCL tears occur most commonly in medium and large breed dogs (e.g. Labrador, Bernese Mountain Dog, German Shepherd), but any pet who packs on the pounds is at a greater risk.
- Intervertebral Disc Disease – degeneration of discs in the spine causes pressure on the spinal cord resulting in pain, trouble walking or even paralysis. This condition occurs in Dachshunds ten times as much as in all other breeds combined, so if you have a “weiner dog,” it is best to keep him at a healthy weight.
- Fractures – as you can imagine, obesity can transform what might normally just be a slip and sprain into a slip and a break. Not only that, but inactive dogs (lack of activity has a high correlation with obesity) are doubly at risk since they have poor muscular and soft tissue support to their limbs and body.
- Cardiac Disease – the hypertension, poor organ function and low activity level that come with obesity are all factors that exacerbate existing cardiac conditions. With breeds where heart disease is common (e.g. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel), keeping them lean can make a huge difference if they are affected with cardiac disorders.
- Pancreatic Disease – obesity is one of the key common contributing factors we find when looking at pets that suffer from idiopathic pancreatitis. It’s a painful and potentially life-threatening condition, but keeping pets trim can help avoid it.
- Hip Dysplasia – This is one of the most common orthopedic conditions in medium and large size dogs, and for pets who have a degree of laxity in their hip joints, being overweight can make a huge difference to the age at which we first see clinical signs of the painful hip disease.
- Patellar Luxation – This is a very common condition in Yorkshire Terriers, Chihuahuas, Miniature Pinschers and other small and toy breeds. Additional weight can mean the difference between medical management and surgical intervention.
If your pet is a little pudgy around the middle, putting him on a diet and exercise plan appropriate for his individual nutritional needs can help reduce his likelihood of experiencing the conditions listed above. Talk to your vet about safe strategies for getting your pet back in fighting form again. He’ll be happier – and healthier – for it.