Rocket's Face

Obesity Reflected in the Faces of Our Pets

Is human obesity reflected in our pets as they increasingly suffer from the same condition? In Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, a new issue devoted entirely to the subject paints a picture that mirrors the problem in humans.

Obesity is perhaps the biggest health problem facing our animal companions. Many owners deny that it’s a problem. And it is devilishly hard to treat. Just as parents are frequently blamed for the obesity of their children, so are owners blamed for the obesity of their pets.

The prevailing bias about obesity in pets is that owners cause it. The presumption is, they do it by using food as an expression of love for their animals. Pet health advocates also blame “Big Pet Food” for making food that animals devour greedily. Cats purr and dogs wag at the sight of this “junk food” for pets.

Myths and presumptions are hard to separate from facts about pet obesity.

One fact is pretty clear. More than half of cats and dogs in the U.S. have excess weight or obesity. The headroom for preventing obesity in our companions is shrinking away. And yet, just as in human obesity, we keep hearing unsubstantiated claims that “this condition is easier to prevent than treat.”

If it’s so easy to prevent, why does the prevalence keep growing?

Obesity in animals is on an almost perfectly parallel path with humans. The understanding of obesity in animals is incomplete, just as it is in humans. Trying to solving a problem without really understanding it seldom works out well.

When we set aside myths, presumptions, and bias, research will lead the way to prevention and treatment that works in both animals and humans. Until then, wheels are spinning.

Click here for the special issue of VCNA:SAP. and here for further perspective on obesity in animals.

Rocket’s Face, photograph © Russell Bernice / flickr

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September 3, 2016

3 Responses to “Obesity Reflected in the Faces of Our Pets”

  1. September 03, 2016 at 1:14 pm, ejh said:

    wow — I had been thinking about this very issue, Ted — I have a Lab who clearly does not have the stop-eating-satiety gene recently discovered — I have him on extremely spendy but good dog food – lower calorie-beautifully balanced and was able to foster about a 10 pound loss but need to help him lose another 10 and this is proving to be painfully difficult for both or us…… parallels seem so likely — dogs are mammals, so are we……..hmmm thanks, as always for posting this!

  2. September 05, 2016 at 7:31 am, Allen Browne said:

    There is a hint/clue about some causes of obesity here for us to ferret out.

    • September 05, 2016 at 3:26 pm, Ted said:

      And we are barely scratching the surface, Allen. Thanks!