The Obesity Epidemic: Fluffy and Fido are Fat

Obesity is considered the epidemic of the 21st century in people, and our pets are no different. Obesity is is one of the most important indicators of long term health. It is not just a cosmetic issue.
In pets, obesity has been linked to arthritis, diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia, heart and lung disease, urinary disorders, reproductive disorders, cancer (mammary tumors, transitional cell carcinoma), skin diseases, and anesthetic complications. With weight loss, many of these conditions will improve.
There are many reasons for excess weight gain that do not include excess calorie intake. It may be due to the type of calories consumed, not enough exercise, or it may be unrelated to either. Hormones, genetics, intestinal health and environmental toxins all play a role. These factors can be modified through diet and lifestyle changes.
The balance of bacteria in the gut affects how calories are absorbed. Hormonal imbalances such as low thyroid levels, adrenal excess or insulin resistance all affect weight gain. High stress and lack of sleep can cause excess cortisol which also contributes to weight gain.
So, you can see that there is a fair amount of detective work that may be needed to determine the cause of the weight gain and the proper treatment. Treatments often include a diet change, since diet affects bacterial balance and can affect hormone production and insulin sensitivity. There will likely also be lifestyle recommendations, blood tests and hormone treatments. There is no one size fits all remedy to obesity.
A good quality, portion controlled, high meat protein, low to moderate carbohydrate diet is a good place to start. Add in moderate exercise and efforts to reduce stress and you will be on the path to improving your pet’s health. Good quality animal fats need to be present in a moderate amount for normal hormone production and nerve function. Did you know that your brain is 60% fat? Do you or your pet really want to avoid eating foods that feed your brains?
In people, it is known that high carbohydrate diets change the gut bacterial populations to encourage the growth of bacteria that appear to increase the risk of obesity. Since carbohydrates directly increase blood sugar and therefore insulin levels, they can contribute to insulin resistance and weight gain. Dogs and cats have no nutritional need for carbohydrates, yet many dry foods contain 50% or more of their calories as carbohydrate. While we always recommend grain free for other reasons which are discussed in a different article, grain free does not mean low carbohydrate.
Using a holistic approach, we can assess your pet’s hormonal balance, nutritional status and lifestyle to find the right solution for you and your pet to achieve his or her optimal weight and optimal health.