Pet obesity

a weighty problem in New Zealand

Cute chubby pets make for great social media content but being overweight is dangerous for furry family members. With National Pet Diabetes Month coming up in November and cuddly Labrador Drax making headlines in New Zealand this week after getting stuck in a dog door, pet insurance provider PD Insurance says it’s a good time to health check your pet.

Cats and dogs are just as prone to dietary-related illnesses as the rest of us, and these can affect their happiness, their ability to move properly and their length of life. It can also mean more money spent on vet bills, medication and other health costs.

Drax was a skinny rescue dog who, after adoption, became a little too spoiled with food. With an expanding girth, the facilities at his new home proved a little challenging.

“Chunky pets definitely have a unique cuteness factor,” says Michelle Le Long, PD Insurance Head of Operations, “but the extra weight doesn’t come without consequences. Dogs and cats suffer for it. Not only is exercise more difficult with the extra pressure on their joints and organs, it also puts them at risk of diseases including diabetes mellitus.”

Why pet obesity is a big issue

Pet obesity is a huge problem. The Pet Obesity Prevention organisation reported in 2018 that 56 million cats and 50 million dogs in the USA were grossly overweight. Locally, a well-known scientific officer and veterinarian Dr Anu Murthy recently shared[1] ‘significant concern’ about dogs and obesity. Veterinarian supplier Animates estimates more than 40% of dogs and over 30% of cats in New Zealand are at least 10% over ideal weight, classed as obese[2].

According to the World Animal Rescue Fund in the United Kingdom, obesity is “a form of abuse, and can cause significant physical and mental health problems,” along with affecting the quality of life and overall lifespan of our furry friends.

Overweight animals often struggle to move normally, leading to an inability to exercise adequately. This, in turn, leads to even more weight gain. They may find themselves in a state of constant discomfort and pain, leading to frustration and even depression. Additional problems can include shortness of breath, fatigue, cardiovascular disease, impaired reproductive efficiency, problems during whelping, and an increased incidence of cancers.

“Every pet parent should take a keen interest in their fur baby’s weight. It’s directly linked to their health, wellbeing and quality of life,” notes Le Long. “Remember: your pet’s weight is in your control – the two most obvious causes of gain are insufficient exercise and overeating.”

How to be obesity aware

Other factors include genetics, age and underlying health issues, so it helps to understand a typical example of your breed of dog or cat. There’s plenty of information available online, but the best person to assess your pet’s BMI (Body Mass Index) is always your trusted vet.

November’s National Pet Diabetes Month is dedicated to spreading the word across the world about pet diabetes, with diabetes a causal link.

Although more common in older pets, diabetes can occur even in puppies and kittens, so vigilance is advisable, says Le Long. “Similar to human diabetes, the condition occurs when your pet has higher than normal levels of glucose, due to poor or absent insulin production.”

Pets get Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, with dogs more likely to develop Type I, and cats type 2. Obesity, as well as some diseases and medications, can lead to Type 2 diabetes in dogs.

The signs

It’s important to detect the signs in its early stages as it could save your furry friend’s life:

  • Excessive thirst and frequent urination. (Notice how often you refill water bowls).
  • Weight loss. (Your pet might be eating but dropping the pounds due to their body’s inability to absorb nutrients).
  • Cloudy eyes. (This is especially the case in dogs).
  • Chronic or recurring infections. (This includes skin infections and urinary infections).

Le Long says, “It’s imperative to visit the vet immediately upon noticing these signs. Pets with diabetes can live long and healthy lives with proper veterinary care and lifestyle management such as a special diet, regular exercise and medication or insulin injections.”

“It’s up to us to ensure our beloved pets stay happy and healthy, and to protect them with pet insurance. It makes quality medical care an easy decision. Plus, if you’re insured before a condition like diabetes arises, your pet is covered for it after any stand-down periods pass.”

Media contact:

Leandri Smith – The Mail Room
027 365 9003 | [email protected]