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The Problem with Extra Pounds
When I was in veterinary school in the late 1980s, very little emphasis was placed on the role fat tissue played in maintaining health or causing disease, especially in dogs and cats. In all honesty, fat was viewed as an inert by-product of excess calories. Unfortunately, that way of thinking hasn't changed much even though numerous studies have now proven that fat is a much more active tissue than we ever imagined and a direct cause of a multitude of diseases. These findings have led scientists to refer to fat as the 'second pancreas' because of the number of hormones and compounds that fat tissue secretes.
All fat is not created equal. There are two types of fat: white adipose tissue and brown adipose tissue, which serve two different purposes and behave very differently in the body. White adipose tissue is the most common type of fatty tissue found in dogs and humans. Historically, white adipose tissue was thought to serve three primary functions: heat insulation, cushioning of vital organs, and, most important, as being a source of energy. We now know about a dark side to excess fat. Current scientific thought places a danger sign clearly above increased abdominal or belly fat—the fat you may see hanging down on your dog's underside just behind the ribs. In humans, this area is known affectionately as a potbelly and results from too much white adipose tissue. Researchers have discovered that this belly fat produces a multitude of chemicals and compounds that signal other cells to perform some action. Some of these actions are beneficial, while others are potentially damaging and can cause conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Because excess fat produces harmful molecules, obese dogs are in a chronically inflamed state, akin to having an endless infection or fever. In fact, in an article in Science, researchers at Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute characterized obesity as a 'low-grade inflammatory state' that was unhealthy and contributed to a number of medical problems.
Why Addressing Canine Obesity Is Important
1. You want your dog to live a long time. Overweight pets, like people, have a higher incidence of life-stealing health complications.
2. You want your dog to be healthy and active. Dogs were meant to run and play. Obesity robs them of the ability to enjoy and lead an active life.
3. You want your dog to be pain-free and happy. One of the main complications of obesity is painful arthritis. Your dog deserves a pain-free life.
4. You want your dog to live a life without medications. All medications carry risk. If you can avoid drugs, you should.
5. You want to save money on your pet's bills. Obesity complications are expensive. The surest way to save money is to prevent disease.
©2010. Ernie Ward, DVM. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Chow Hounds. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442