Definitely YES is the answer to the question – “Is your pet in more pain if it carries extra weight.”
Just 25 years ago; we thought that fat was just a white mass of storage of energy that insulates us and is there in times of famine. We realise now how very far from fact that is. We now know that fat cells are a very important endocrine organ in the body which means that they secrete hormones – in particular adipokines. There are a number of different adipokines in the body and they are all linked to inflammation!
All the ‘itis’ conditions are what we want to avoid in our pet’s bodies – hepatitis, pancreatitis, cystitis, nephritis……but each and every one of these conditions is very painful and is a form of inflammation, including obesity!
If the body is so busy repairing cells damaged by fat cells, then it cannot be there for when the body really needs a strong immunity such as when there is a bad viral or bacterial infection (as explained in humans who are more likely to die of Coronavirus if they are obese).
With an increase in fat cells and subsequent adipokines when your pet carries extra weight, there is more pain not just from the structural pain of the dog’s weight on their joints, but equally from the fat itself releasing inflammatory cells.
It has been shown that elderly overweight dogs who suffer with arthritis will show a 6% improvement in mobility and pain just with a small amount of weight loss – definitely worth doing in your devoted old pet that is carrying too much weight.
The heavier your pet, the more pain it will be in. It is heartbreaking as a vet to make a diagnosis of arthritis in a dog that is already carrying extra weight. It is a diagnosis that means that you the owner has to come to terms with the eventual end which will be euthanasia due to pain and that is just heartbreaking when you consider how much we value our pets!
Then the other factors to consider include:
- Pancreatitis is caused by an inflammation of the gland in the body that is there to provide enzymes to digest food. If your pet is given a very fatty diet and ends up with pancreatitis, it is one of the most painful conditions they can get as those same enzymes leak out and begin to digest the organs around the gland!
- Diabetes in pets requires regular blood tests to ensure that your pet’s levels of glucose in the blood are stable. This involves behind the scenes blood collections at your vet practice where it is frightening for your little pet to have their leg shaved and blood taken from their vein without you there.
- An inability to breath properly is not painful, but it is very stressful on a pet who may already suffer from breathing conditions such as bronchitis or heart failure or just have an excessively long soft palate such as with our pugs and frenchies. To have extra fat around their neck and around their vital organs compounds the inability to breath properly and weight loss immediately results in a better quality of life.
- One of the biggest worries we have as both vets and pet owners of our own slightly chubby pets; is that one of their cruciate ligaments in their back knee joints may rupture. This happens just so easily in overweight pets who sleep on your bed or jump on the sofa regularly. One jump and a wrong twist if they carry that extra weight, and the ligament may rupture. It is VERY painful for your pet and may involve surgery – although some dogs are so overweight that surgery is postponed for fear of the other ligament rupturing in the other knee if they are unable to use their operated leg!
Possibly the saddest result of your pet carrying the extra weight is that you just will not have your pet around for as long as if they were a healthy lean weight. Just as in humans, extra weight runs the risk of heart and respiratory problems as well as increasing the risk of cancer as explained by our veterinary cancer specialist and Vet Dr Clare Knottenbelt.
We love our dogs and place too high a value of their presence in our lives so let us help you keep your pet as healthy as they can possibly be. Let us teach you everything we have learnt for our own pets as we love them as much you love yours!
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