Oct 8, 2021

How Obesity in Pets Can Lead to Osteoarthritis

Posted by Bob under osteoarthritis, Pet Obesity

Last week, we talked about the benefits of walking our dogs and how it can help reduce or maintain weight which may help to reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis (OA). There is no doubt that obesity may cause or exacerbate OA. And since we’re coming up on National Pet Obesity Awareness Day, we thought it would be perfect to discuss the link between obesity and osteoarthritis.

Obesity and Osteoarthritis are on the Rise

According to reports conducted by Banfield, both obesity and osteoarthritis are on the rise in pets. According to these reports, approximately 1 out of every 3 dogs and cats are overweight and obesity has risen 169% in cats and 158% in dogs over the past ten years. Similarly, osteoarthritis has increased 150% in cats and 66% in dogs over the past ten years. This same report notes that 52% of dogs that have OA are also overweight or obese while 41% of cats with OA are overweight or obese.

Link Between Obesity and Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a painful inflammatory condition of the joints that is progressive, meaning without intervention it continues to get worse over time. One of its most significant contributing factors in dogs and cats is being overweight. In fact, dogs that are overweight or obese are 2.3 times more likely to be diagnosed with osteoarthritis. With obesity in pets on the rise, it makes sense that osteoarthritis is also on the rise.

The link between obesity and osteoarthritis is an unfortunate vicious cycle: Weight gain causes more wear and tear on your pet’s joints, leading them to be less active and potentially gain more weight. Likewise, sore joints can lead to a pet being less active which can then lead to weight gain. If weight is not lost, the cycle will continue.

Furthermore, reduced activity often leads to more stiffness and pain. As we discussed in last week’s blog, regular, low-impact exercise tailored to your dog’s breed and physical abilities may reduce the severity or even delay the onset of osteoarthritis. Regular physical activity helps to build and maintain muscle mass as well as aid in joint fluid circulation, both of which support healthier joints.

So, what can you do?

Your best resource is your veterinarian. He/She can help to determine if your pet is overweight or obese and if so, can come up with a diet and exercise regimen to help your pet get to an ideal weight. If you’re unsure if your pet is overweight, the below chart is a helpful visual guide, but it should only be used as a reference, not necessarily a diagnostic tool.


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