Half of Dogs and Cats in the UK Are Now Overweight
Research studies suggest weight problems are a concern for dogs and cats as well as humans, and that some problems of obesity in humans may be linked to a viral infection.
There are several reasons that may explain the apparent trend towards obesity in dogs and cats. For one thing, dogs and cats are carnivores, meaning they are designed to eat primarily meat. Dry pet foods usually contain, wheat, corn or soy products which are not natural staples for carnivore diets. These ingredients are high in carbohydrates which might pose a risk of excess calories. Dogs and cats also require exercise to maintain health. Many animals, especially house cats, may not get sufficient exercise to burn the calories they consume in a day. Additionally, some animals may eat out of boredom from lack of stimulation. If obesity in dogs and cats is an increasing trend, it may be due to long term feeding of dry foods with their common ingredients of corn, gluten, soybeans and added fat, or a trend in pet food formulas towards increased carbohydrate and fat calories, As in humans, a higher protein diets (more natural for carnivores like dogs and cats) may serve to reduce body weight.
The possibility that obesity may be caused in some animals and people by a viral infection is intriguing and may apply to weight problems in some dogs and cats as well.
In general, it's important to remember there is no perfect food. Varying your diet, and the diet of your dog or cat, is a simple and easy strategy to help ensure nutritional adequacy.
John W. Cartmell, MS
Half of dogs and cats in the UK are now overweight
8-20-07Obesity is not just a growing health problem among humans, it seems.
Half of dogs and cats in the UK are now overweight, according to the RSPCA.
TV vet Joe Inglis, who has teamed up with the charity to launch a Pets Get Slim website and road show tomorrow, said that "action needs to be taken" over pet obesity.
"Whether your pet is obese or slightly overweight - it matters. A weight problem can affect a pet's quality of life and lead to straining of the joints, causing arthritis, as well as internal illnesses like diabetes, liver disease and heart disease," he said.
"Pet obesity is not an issue to be taken lightly - with so many overweight pets, action needs to be taken today."
He said the website, petsgetslim.co.uk, would give pet owners help and motivation to keep their pets on a diet.
"We know diets are difficult and when you've got a pet begging for treats with pleading eyes, it's really tough," he added.
On the site, pet owners can upload photos of their pets, share weight loss experiences and be voted "pet slimmer of the week".
At Pets Get Slim road shows, to be held in Southampton, Bristol, Cardiff, Birmingham and Manchester this week, visitors can have their animals weighed and discover their pet's ideal weight.
The RSPCA said it hoped through the road show to further assess the problem of pet obesity, which can also increase skin problems and the risk of fatty tumors.
The charity said that if you could not easily feel a dog or cat's ribs, it probably meant it was overweight.
A study by the University of Edinburgh earlier this month showed that one in 230 cats in the UK were now diabetic, with overweight cats over three times more likely to suffer from the condition.
Cold virus may spur weight gain: study
A common virus that causes colds can be a factor in obesity, according to a study released Monday offering further evidence that a weight problem may be contagious.
The adenovirus-36 (Ad 36) has already been implicated as the cause of weight gain in animals, but with this study researchers showed for the first time that it can also cause humans to pile on the pounds.
The findings could accelerate the development of a vaccine or an antiviral medication to help fight the battle of the bulge alongside diet and exercise.
"We're not saying that a virus is the only cause of obesity, but this study provides stronger evidence that some obesity cases may involve viral infections," said Magdalena Pasarica, an obesity researcher at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
A previous study found that almost a third of obese people are infected with the virus compared to around one in 10 of their leaner counterparts.
In laboratory experiments, the Louisana State University researchers found that the bug appeared to promote the formation of fat cells from stem cells.
The team took adult stem cells from fatty tissue left over from patients who had undergone liposuction, a procedure to remove fat, and exposed some of it to Ad-36, leaving the rest untreated.
After a week of growth in tissue culture, most of the virus-infected adult stem cells developed into fat cells, whereas the untreated cells did not.
It's not clear what drives the transformation, how long the virus lingers in the human system or whether its fat-enhancing effect continues after the body has cleared the virus, the researchers said.
A study in animals found that they remained obese up to six months after the infection had cleared.
The Louisiana State University team is working on further studies to try and establish why some people with the virus develop obesity while others don't.
"Not all infected people will develop obesity," said Pasarica. "We would ultimately like to identify the underlying factors that predispose some obese people to develop this virus and eventually find a way to treat it."
Pasarica presented the results of her study at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston.
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