As over 50% of all American cats have been diagnosed as clinically overweight or obese, it is extremely important to raise more awareness about the seriousness of this problem and the impact it has on feline health. The following article will inform you on health risks associated with cat obesity all cat guardians need to be aware of.
Health risks associated with obesity
Last year, Nationwide analyzed more than 630,000 insured pets in its database to determine the top 10 obesity-related conditions in cats and dogs. We hereby present you their results for cats, alongside with short descriptions for each health risk mentioned. Please refer to the original article for complete research results for both groups.
1. Bladder/Urinary Tract Disease
Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is a group of conditions that affect feline bladder and urethra. There is a variety of different diseases associated with the feline lower urinary tract, including inflammation of the bladder (cystitis) or urethra, urethra obstruction (partial or complete) and formation of urinary crystals in the bladder (crystalluria or urolithiasis).
FLUTD can be caused by a number of factors such as urinary stones, urinary infections, urethral obstruction, FIC, and less commonly tumors, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, congenital abnormalities and injuries. Diet, obesity and irregular exercise contribute to the risk of developing FLUTD as well.
2. Chronic Kidney Disease
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a renal disease associated with a gradual loss of kidney function over a period of several months or years. Unlike acute renal disease, which develops suddenly and progresses rapidly, CKD progresses slowly and persistently, often with no apparent symptoms until later stages.
This is a multi-factorial disease, whose exact cause in many cases remains unclear. The progression of the disease is variable; thus, early and correct diagnosis and therapy are essential for the improvement of the quality of life quality of affected cats.
3. Diabetes mellitus
Diabetes mellitus (DM), or simply diabetes, is a group of metabolic disorders in which blood sugar levels remain high for long periods of time. This occurs when there are insufficient levels of insulin produced in the body or the body isn’t responding properly to this hormone. Changes in lifestyle and obesity have both been associated with human and feline diabetes.
Most recorded cases of feline diabetes are similar to human diabetes type 2. Did you know we recently launched the Basepaws Feline Diabetes Mellitus Research Initiative? Review our study, join us in our research and help us spread the word! Let’s improve the future of all cats together.
Asthma is a long-term inflammatory disease of the airways of the lungs characterized by reversible airflow obstructions and common bronchospasms. The symptoms are variable and recurring, among which the most common ones include breathing difficulties, coughing and wheezing. According to Purina, asthma affects between 1-5% of cats, thus being one of the most common respiratory diseases in cats.
“While the exact cause of feline asthma remains unknown, the prevailing thought in veterinary medicine is that the symptoms of asthma are triggered by an allergic response to inhaled airborne particles.” – explained Purina veterinarian Dr. Kurt Venator, DVM, Ph.D. and Chief Veterinary Officer –“It can be a challenging condition to manage, as asthmatic cats can react to so many potential irritants in the environment.”
5. Liver Disease
The liver, often referred to as the factory of an organism, performs many essential functions in a cat’s body. It’s involved in the digestion of fats and other nutrients, it produces certain hormones, glucose, proteins and immune factors. It also clears the blood of waste products and stores energy and important nutrients such as vitamins.
Liver disease (or hepatic disease) is a highly variable disease of the liver and it can be caused by many different factors including viruses, toxins, cancer and genetics. One of the most common liver diseases in cats is hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver. The exact cause for feline hepatic lipidosis remains largely unknown, but the disease has been associated with obesity.
Arthritis is an umbrella term often used to describe any disorder and disease affecting the joints. There are numerous types of arthritis, but the most common joint disease in cats is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disorder of synovial joints caused by the loss of the cartilage at the ends of the bones in a synovial joint.
Joint diseases are very common in cats, with over 90% of cats over the age of 10 years developing some form of arthritis. While there are several forms of the disease, all arthritic cats generally show overall stiffness, lameness, lethargy, decreased flexibility and prominent changes in behavior.
7. High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure of hypertension is a condition of elevated blood pressure in the arteries. High blood pressure is typically harmless, however, long-term hypertension significantly increases many health risks, including artery disease, heart failure, vascular disease, chronic kidney disease, vision loss and others. Hypertension is more common in older cats and overweight cats. High blood pressure may be primary or secondary, caused by a different health condition. The treatment of feline hypertension is a lot more challenging than in people. Research efforts are still being made to find appropriate and effective drugs that can be used for cats.
8. Heart Failure
Heart failure is a term used to describe the inability of the heart to pump a sufficient amount of blood to the rest of the body. This is not a specific disease; it is a syndrome in which the cardiovascular system fails to provide appropriate blood circulation. There are four functional types of heart failure: systolic myocardial failure, impedance to cardiac inflow, pressure overload, and volume overload.
The body often uses specific mechanisms to compensate for heart failure in heart disease, but long-term activation of compensatory mechanisms can be harmful to the entire body. This is why it is important to timely diagnose heart failure and provide the treatment that will improve heart muscle performance. For more on heart failure in cats, we highly recommend this article by MSD Veterinary Manual.
9. Gallbladder Disorder
The gallbladder is a small, hollow organ which stores and concentrates bile. Bile (or gall) is produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder from where it’s released into the small intestine. The function of bile is to help the digestion of lipids in the small intestine. There are different forms of gallbladder disease, such as: obstruction of the bile duct (system of ducts leading from the liver to the gallbladder and from the gallbladder to the intestine), inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis), gallstones, liver flukes, rupture of the gallbladder or bile duct and cancer.
Diseases affecting the gallbladder are functionally classified into three groups: obstructive, non-obstructive and rupture disease. Vomiting, jaundice, lack of appetite, fever and abdominal discomfort are common in animals with inflammation or obstruction of the biliary tract.
10. Immobility of Spine
Overweight cats may be subject to limited mobility due to the access weight stressing their spine and limiting their flexibility and mobility. Cats whose mobility is limited due to weight often struggle to groom themselves. The access fat may also block the vertebrae (separate segments comprising the spine) at the base of the spine, thus preventing the cat from dropping the tail. As a result, they are forced to continually carry the tail curled up from the base.
Obesity is a complex health problem commonly observed and overlooked in domestic cats. While chubby cats are that adorable, obesity is often associated with a number of health problems, all with a potential to detriment the quality and length of your cat’s life.
Adapt your cat’s nutrition to its nutritional needs, ensure an adequate amount of physical activity and keep your little companion healthy and happy for many years to come. Meow!