Albert North Veterinary Clinic

219 Albert St. North
Regina, SK S4R 3C2

306-545 x7211


ANVC's Nutrition Library

Obesity Quiz Answers


Question 1: What are the risk factors for obesity?

 Answer: D) All of the above

There are many risk factors for obesity. Although any animal can become obese, gender is an important risk factor for developing obesity. Sex hormones influence appetite, metabolism and body fat composition, as do leptin, insulin and growth hormones. Female and neutered animals are at higher risk for obesity than male or intact animals.

Certain breeds are also more likely to become obese. Other risk factors are being older and less active, ad libitum feeding, improper meal feeding, inappropriate diet, consuming too many calories, begging and competitive eating with other pets.

The owner?s lifestyle is a special consideration. Many overweight pets are owned by overweight pet parents, and they might be sensitive about being told their pets are fat. Many owners equate food with love and feed their pets too much. In addition, they give them "people food" and treats without thinking about the consequences of those little tidbits.

To compound the problem, many owners do not walk their dogs even though exercise is essential to weight management. This is one area that technicians might be able to influence. When counseling about weight management and nutrition, discuss all the causes of obesity (without judging the owner) and then suggest that owners not only cut down the amount of food they give the dog but that they begin taking the dog on daily walks. This will benefit not only the dog but the client. Dogs make excellent fitness partners. Once you start walking them, they demand that daily walk!

It is harder to exercise a cat because there are not too many that can be walked on a leash. However, owners can still play with their cats. There are toys designed to keep cats active and curious. Chasing a light or jumping up after a favored toy is one way to exercise the cat. Putting the cat's food up on a shelf or table so that it has to work a little before it eats is another way to get those fat cats back in action.


Question 2: What is the normal body fat composition for an adult dog 8 to 10 years of age?

 Answer: C) 25% - 30%

Dogs start out lean. At birth, their body fat is only 1% - 2%. By the time they are weaned, they have gained 10% - 15% body fat. A healthy young adult dog has a body fat composition of about 15% to 20%, with females having a little more fat than males. By the time dogs are 8 to 10 years old, their body fat composition should be about 25% - 30%. (A younger dog with 25% - 30% body fat is obese.)

When a dog becomes older, eating the same amount and types of food as the animal ate when it was younger can lead to obesity because its metabolism changes as lean body mass is replaced with increased adipose (fat) tissue.


Question 3: Obese dogs and cats are more at risk for which condition?

 Answer: A) Musculoskeletal diseases

An overweight animal is at risk of developing several diseases, including musculoskeletal diseases, which can decrease its quality of life. The chance of developing musculoskeletal diseases, such as degenerative osteoarthritis, intervertebral disc disease, anterior cruciate rupture, hip dysplasia, osteochondrosis desiccans, and joint laxity and deformity, increase as the weight-bearing on muscles and bones increases. Obesity has also been associated with hypertension, liver failure, infections, and certain cancers and respiratory problems. Breeding animals can have problems with sperm viability and dystocia.


If you picked B) Diabetes, you are half correct.

Dogs are more likely to develop a type I insulin-dependent diabetes that cannot be reversed and is thought to result from an immune-mediated destruction of the pancreatic beta cells. This destruction prevents the beta cells from producing insulin. Although a canine diet that is high in fat might lead to pancreatitis, which can lead to canine diabetes, obesity does not directly cause the diabetes in dogs.

Cats, on the other hand, can develop diabetes similar to type II diabetes in humans. Non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus caused by obesity might be reversible in some cats if the owner can get that weight off.

Separation anxiety is a psychological condition and is not related to obesity.


Question 4: How is obesity diagnosed?

 Answer: B) Clinical inspection looking for body weight and body condition score

Most veterinarians can tell by looking at an animal if it is obese, although they might order some tests to eliminate any differentials, including pregnancy, peripheral edema, intra-abdominal organomegaly, abdominal masses, ascites, hypothyroidism and hyperadrenocorticism.

Body weight is an indirect measurement of obesity and is not a sole indicator that the animal is obese - overweight does not necessarily mean fat. Dogs with more muscle mass, such as athletes or working dogs, will weigh more than the average house pet, but that weight will be lean muscle rather than fat.

Body weight combined with body condition score provides a better assessment of obesity. Loss of an "hourglass" shape when viewed from above and protuberant or draped accumulations of fat around the tail, head and neck (and the inguinal udder in cats) point to a less-than-ideal body condition.

When palpated, a veterinarian or technician should be able to distinguish individual ribs in a normal-weight animal. Five- and nine-point body condition scales have been published that indicate not only an obese animal but an animal that is heading into danger. The middle values represent optimal conditioning, lower values represent underconditioning, and higher levels represent overconditioning.


Question 5: Is surgery an option for weight loss in an animal?

 Answer: B) No

There are several surgical techniques used in people to help them lose weight, including liposuction, jejunoileal bypass, gastrectomy, gastric stapling or wiring the jaw shut. None of these surgical techniques has been evaluated for safety and efficacy in dogs or cats.

Question 6: Why are unbalanced weight reduction programs harmful?

 Answer: C) They may produce deficiency states that can cause illness or death.

Eating an unbalanced diet might help an animal lose weight, but it might also cause deficiency states that can lead to other illnesses or even death. Most pet food companies that make a weight loss food for dogs and cats use a high-fiber/low-fat diet or a low-carbohydrate diet.

These diets contain balanced nutrients so that the animals do not suffer malnutrition and imbalances. Any dietary change should be made over 5 to 7 days to avoid inducing gastrointestinal upsets, and the amount of food that is given is determined by calculating the weight loss goal.


Question 7: What type of diet is best to help cats lose weight?

 Answer: B) Low-carbohydrate diet

Cats seem to do well on a low-carbohydrate diet, which limits carbohydrates (sugars) and provides protein, vitamins, minerals and some fat. When the carbohydrates are limited, the body starts to use peripheral fat for energy, instead of sugars, reducing fat stores. This is the same idea behind human diets, such as the South Beach and Atkins Diets. This strategy, however, does not appear to be effective in dogs.


Question 8: When is an animal obese?

 Answer: C) When it reaches 15% excess body weight

An animal is considered obese when it begins to weigh more than 15% - 20% of its ideal weight because of the accumulation of body fat. (Some athletes will weigh more than normal, but that weight is attributable to lean muscle mass rather than body fat.) Animals will often experience the negative health effects of being overweight at this level of excess weight. These conditions are inevitable when the animal is 30% over its ideal body weight.


Question 9: Can obesity be prevented?

 Answer: A) Yes

Obesity can be prevented, but it is not easy. People have trouble breaking bad habits and maintaining good ones. To prevent obesity, owners must modify the risk factors that cause the problem: poor diets and decreased exercise.

Everyone knows how difficult it is to maintain his or her own weight. Imagine how hard it is for owners to maintain their animal?s weight, too. Make sure the animal is on a balanced diet, and talk to owners about the importance of maintaining an ideal body weight to help the animal live a longer, healthier life. Good communication is essential.

Essential to this communication is to recognize the importance of the human-animal bond and that many people equate food with love. Let owners know they can show love by playing with their animals, petting them and walking them. Snacking is an easy route to obesity.

Because snacking is a large part of a person's routine, this is especially hard to stop. Instead of criticizing owners for giving pets treats, suggest which treats and in what amounts are acceptable.

Question 10: Who is responsible for helping the animal lose weight?

 Answer: E) All of the above

Helping an animal lose weight requires a team approach, and the owner is a key player. The veterinarian must examine the animal to make sure there is not another reason for the weight gain and then establish a diet that will help the animal lose weight while still getting optimal nutrition.

The technician and assistant play very important roles. They must teach owners about the importance of weight loss and get them to buy in. They must help to set a goal for the weight loss and encourage the owner to stick with it. Positive feedback supports owners and helps change long-standing habits.

In the case of obesity, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound (or excess pounds) of cure. If owners can get puppies and kittens off to a good start, they can save later heartaches and disease. Let the owners know early on what foods and snacks are acceptable and which should be avoided. A pet with an educated owner is a healthier pet.

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