National Pet Obesity Awareness Day

Let’s get one thing straight….there is no such thing as “fat and happy.”  The closest you get to such a thing is the feeling after a conquering delicious meal.  If you get those big meals too often and actually BECOME fat, however, unhappy things begin to happen.  You become sluggish, you struggle with daily activities, aches and pains become more frequent.

Before you get in a P.C. flame war understand that I am not fat shaming!  Just merely pointing out the biological affects of added girth.

Fat Horse Wikimedia Commons

I am in fact heavy, and it has been a lifelong struggle (Hence my other blog Fighting The Fat Kid Within).  I get that some prefer heavier, but let’s put aside the society and politics side of it and talk biology.  As an individual puts on weight fitness level decreases, blood pressure increases, and chances for illness greatly increase.  In animals this is no different. There are pets that will gorge themselves as part of some instinct to pack on fat for survival.  It doesn’t mean they should.

If you’re still mad at me for bringing up the “fat” word and you’ve run out of band-aids and bubble-wrap, lets agree on at least one thing…

Your pets deserve to have a healthy, happy life, right?

 …and I’m sure you want them to have a long life as well, right?

If you can agree with that then I urge you to consider the consequences of overindulging your well-loved fur-baby.

Yesterday, October 11th, was National Pet Obesity Awareness Day.  Although a day late I wanted to take the opportunity to discuss the health epidemic.  Lets start with some facts and statistics:

According to the Association for Pet Obesity ~59% of cats and 54% of dogs are overweight or obese.;

Extra weight puts some serious hurt on the body and pets are susceptible to

  • orthopedic disease
  • joint issues
  • skin disorders
  • inflammation
  • metabolic disorders
  • kidney problems
  • respiratory problems.

“HEY LADY! This site is for horse people”

Ok, you got me there, but I’m assuming if you love horses you must have a cat or dog at home too, right? They sort of go hand in hand.  But I’ll move on the our equine friends.

Horses are no different than our smaller pets in that they suffer from added weight.  A 1200 pound horse carries all of it’s weight on 4 considerably small hooves.  Horses get fat in quite similar ways that we do.

  • Too much food (but you’ve gotta love those easy keepers)
  • Too little exercise (oh but I don’t have time…)
  • Metabolism (Some from genetics)
  • Stress

Yes, stress.  Cortisol, leptin, and insulin exist in horses and have similar functions as in humans.  Stress comes in many forms like stall confinement, separation from it’s friends, sleep deprivation, hard training, or even aggressive weight loss dietary measures.  In horses and humans alike stress causes the individual to store fat for survival.

There are some serious consequences to consider when you have a portly pony:

  • Lipomas: Extra belly fat puts the horse at risk for lipomas, potentially deadly tumor-like deposits.  These are formed when connective tissue encases solid balls of fat.  This can be deadly as the stalks can strangulate the intestines causing colic.  The only way to fix this type of colic is through surgery.
  • Laminitis: defined as the inflammation of the laminae, a network of blood vessels within the hoof.  Unfortunately many horses suffer from laminitis and it is very painful.
  • Founder: If laminitis isn’t treated it may turn into founder, which is a chronic version of laminitis.  This excruciating condition is the result of the hoof structures dropping.  In the worst cases the coffin bone is rotated and will even erupt though the sole of the hoof.Founder_severe_rotation Wikimedia
  • Insulin Resistance: Similar to diabetes in humans, horses can develop insulin resistance.  Insulin’s sole purpose is to lower blood sugar by facilitating transportation of sugar to the cells.  When the body can’t do it’s job it’s your substantial steed who suffers.

Some other affects you may not realize of having bajiggle-jaggle:

  • A bootylicious mare may have altered estrous cycles
  • Hearty horses struggle more with regulating body temperature in the summer.  Besides the added insulation, sweating is less effective. Perspiration is needed to cool a horse down through the process of evaporation.  Your fleshy horse has more mass to cool down and the surface area of it’s body won’t quite handle the demand on warm days.
  • As with all creatures, when our equines are rotund they also suffer from joint issues and sluggishness.

We owe it to the animals we love to keep them healthy and happy.  Give them a treat or three, but make sure that you are making the right choices.  Reach for healthier treats, and make them good rewards.  Rather than sugar cubes and peppermints lets try forage cubes, apples, or bananas.

Since “the Green Horseman” is still in its infancy I have plans to discuss some of the mentioned health conditions, body score, and nutrition in future installments.  To make sure you stay in the loop FOLLOW ME and stay tuned.  Until then you can check out some excellent articles below on pet obesity or Get in Touch  if you have any questions.

Further Reading


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