Kenosha Animal Hospital

6223 39th Avenue
Kenosha, WI 53142


Pet Obesity - Part 6


Fat, also known as adipose tissue, was once only thought of as a storage organ or "depot" for energy. In animals, it occurs in two forms, brown or white fat. Brown adipose is found mainly in hibernating animals and neonates. It has a good blood supply, helps to regulate body temperature and is an important aid in the metabolism of energy. White adipose tissue is the less vascular, most common form and easily and readily accumulates in overweight and obese animals. It has a necessary function in the storage and release of important fatty acids, but it also has the ability of becoming the greatest risk to our overweight pets' good health. This is also true with us, as we and/or our pets gain too much weight, the white adipose tissue quickly begins to accumulate in the abdominal cavity, and as we will soon learn, becomes a secretory organ, producing a number of very dangerous chemicals. In this article, I will discuss, without getting into too much science, how this happens. There is a tremendous amount of information that can be reviewed if you become so inclined, with new information coming to light every day.

The primary white fat cell, also know as the adipocyte, can begin to develop the ability to produce and release surprisingly high levels of more than twenty-one known chemical mediators, once a certain level of obesity is reached. This level can vary from individual to individual, and is not yet fully understood. Similarly, there is also a point at which the fat cells are triggered to multiply, creating an even greater threat to wellness. It is now well accepted that excessive white fat can become as metabolically active as the brain, thyroid, adrenal glands and pancreas, producing hormones that create insulin resistance leading to diabetes; the resistance of another important hormone called leptin, leading to an increased appetite and depressed metabolism; and other chemicals known as proinflammatory cytokines that can damage many body parts, including the joints, heart, blood vessels and lungs. The affects of these chemicals eventually leads to a diminished quality of life and premature aging. Once these fat cells divide, they become a permanent addition to the body. The only way to reduce the chemical production by these toxic metabolic factories in the body is to shrink their size with gradual and steady weight loss.

The take home message that I hope you will receive from this article is that prevention of obesity is much easier than trying to lose weight once we, or our pets, are already obese, due the hormone changes that occur, affecting appetite and energy metabolism. In light of all of this information, obesity is now recognized as an extremely serious disease that deserves the same urgency that clinicians have for other dangerous medical conditions.

In the next article, I will focus on three relatively easy steps that you can do at home to help your pet lose weight.