December, 2015 – Loving Your Pet to Death!


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Loving Your Pet to Death!

By: Dr. Mark Planco and Fran Faulkner     

The title may be a little dramatic but it’s the truth. When we love our pet, how do we usually express it? With treats! The most common reason that dogs and cats are overweight is by consuming more calories than they need. That pleasantly plump pet may have some serious health risks to consider, like the following:


Obesity increases exercise intolerance and increases the risk of heat exhaustion. Obesity also worsens existing respiratory conditions. If your pet has a collapsing trachea, a fatter neck will surely make it harder to breathe. If you own a breed with an adorable squishy face, they already have predisposed respiratory issues made worse with weight gain.

Cardiac (heart) disease

Obesity increases the risk of cardiac disease and high blood pressure in humans and our little four legged friends too!  Obese animals fill the sac around their heart with fat deposits, making it more difficult for the heart to pump appropriately.  In dogs that already have heart disease, obesity can also make it harder for them to get around as it requires more blood to be pumped around the body.

Skeletal Disease

Obesity causes existing arthritis issues to be more painful or may even speed up arthritic changes in your pet’s joints. In some cases, all that extra weight can even be the cause of your pet’s osteoarthritis due to the increased mechanical stress on the joints.


A ligament tear is more likely to occur in overweight pets because their joint structure is already compromised by their mass. Your pet is also more likely to get a slipped or ruptured disc due to all that extra weight they are carrying on their back.

Disease Processes

Obesity increases the risk of insulin resistance in both cats and dogs which can lead to Diabetes Mellitus. Treatment includes weight loss, diet, daily insulin injections, and sometimes oral medications. One clinical sign of some ailments (such as hypothyroidism) is weight gain, so your veterinarian may recommend certain diagnostics. This helps rule out these diseases before beginning a weight loss regimen.

Healthify Your Pet

You can determine if your pet is overweight by evaluating his body condition at home. Does he have a well-proportioned waist? Does his abdomen ‘tuck’ when viewed from the side? Can you easily feel his ribs (not see his ribs) when you slide your fingers up and down his sides? If you answered ‘NO’ to these questions, your pet is overweight. Please contact us to help you formulate a weight loss program specific to your pet’s needs. We can offer many options for pet owners to help keep our furry friends lean. Here are a few helpful hints:

  • Watch what he eats
  • Low-Calorie Snack Alternatives:  12 calories in ¼ cup of apple, 9 calories in ¼ cup of green beans
  • Exercise: Take your dog for a 30-minute walk, play fetch, create an obstacle course, hide the catnip toy or treat and make your pet hunt for it
  • Visit your veterinarian on a monthly basis to monitor your pet’s progress.

Now that you know the serious health risks that accompany obesity, maybe little Oscar’s saddle bags aren’t so cute anymore. Let’s resolve to all get fit together! GOOD LUCK!


Dr. Mark Planco’s compassion for animals has been a lifelong labor of love. He earned both his undergraduate and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees at the University of Florida. Dr. Planco has treated small and large animals since 1991, and has been in Palm Beach County since 1994. Dr. Planco is a member of the Palm Beach Veterinary Society, American Veterinary Medical Association and the Florida Veterinary Medical Association.  Visit for further information or call 561-795-9507.


Disclaimer: This column is not intended to provide information on which you should use to diagnose or treat a medical condition or delay seeking medical attention. This column is of no value with respect to any medical condition that needs prompt attention. If you have a question that needs an immediate answer, you should call your own veterinarian or emergency animal hospital, especially if you are confronting a medical emergency!

Furthermore, we urge you to always seek the advice of your own veterinarian, and you should not disregard, discount, or delay seeking the advice of your veterinarian because of any response posted in this column.