February 2009 Issue

Obesity: A Big Problem

Fat cats are at an elevated risk of several diseases and health conditions. Here's how to determine if your pet needs to diet.

Feline obesity is a problem among housecats. "As many as 30 to 40 percent of cats are overweight, with 15 to 20 percent falling in the obese range," says Joseph Wakshlag, DVM, PhD, DACVN, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Despite public education efforts by the veterinary community, the numbers have not improved over the past decade, which is especially troubling because added weight can have serious health repercussions for cats. An overweight cat is at risk for several diseases, relates Dr. Wakshlag. "Obesity is one of the biggest factors for feline diabetes II," he says, adding that the extra weight carried by heavy cats causes stress on the feline’s joints, which can cause early onset of arthritis. Obese cats are also at heightened risk for feline hepatic lipidosis (FHL), or feline fatty liver syndrome, a liver disease that occurs when fat cells build up in the liver and prevent it from functioning normally. Heavy cats also may have more difficulties grooming themselves, which could cause hygiene and skin issues. Overweight cats may also be at increased risks in surgery.

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