Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy



or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.

petMD Blogs

Written by leading veterinarians to provide you with the information you need to care for your pets.

Subscribe to
Nutrition Nuggets
 
 
Your cat's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your cat, how much food to feed, and the differences in cat foods, so your cat gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Cat Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of cat nutrition.

An Obesity Paradox?

October 26, 2012 / (1) comments

Human medical doctors and researchers have stumbled upon an interesting conundrum they call the obesity paradox. It goes something like this. Obesity is bad. It predisposes us to a wide range of health problems including diabetes and heart disease. But, if a person happens to develop some types of chronic disease (including diabetes and heart disease), obesity actually has a positive effect on survival. In other words, fat people with diabetes and heart disease live longer than people who are underweight or of normal weight with the same diseases.

Nobody has come up with a solid explanation for the obesity paradox in people, probably because like all things medical, obesity is complicated. What seems to make the most sense to me is that once someone gets sick, it can be helpful to have some extra reserves on hand to weather the storm, but genetics, differences in treatment protocols, and other factors may also play a role.

Veterinary researchers have started looking for the obesity paradox in our companion animals. A 2008 study investigated whether the differing survival rates of dogs suffering from heart failure as a result of dilated cardiomyopathy or chronic valvular disease could be explained, at least in part, by their body condition scores and/or changes in body weight after diagnosis. The results showed "survival was significantly different between dogs that gained, lost, or maintained body weight over the course of their disease (P= .04), with dogs that gained weight surviving the longest. BCS [body condition score] and medications were not significantly associated with survival time…"

A 2012 paper examining survival times in cats with heart failure caused by cardiomyopathy found "cats with the lowest and highest body weights had reduced survival times compared with those with body weights in the intermediate ranges, suggesting a U-shaped relationship between body weight and survival." Unlike the situation in dogs, changes in body weight over the course of the study (either gains or losses) did not have a significant impact on the cats’ survival times.

So based on these two studies at least, it looks like there is no obesity paradox as it relates to heart failure in dogs and cats. That doesn’t mean that owners and veterinarians can ignore changes in body weight when a pet becomes sick, however. The canine heart failure study demonstrated that dogs who gained weight while sick survived the longest. The results of the feline study did not bear this out for cats, but I’d be willing to bet that future investigations reverse this finding, if not for heart disease than possibly for other chronic conditions like kidney disease.

What does this mean for owners? If your dog or cat develops heart failure, or any other life threatening chronic disease, maintaining good nutrition is at least as important as any of the drugs you might be giving. Food provides the energy pets needs to counteract the effects of illness, as well as the vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, antioxidants, and other nutrients that can have a positive influence on both the quality and duration of his life.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Cat by ScaarAT / via Flickr

Subscribe to Nutrition Nuggets

Comments  1

Leave Comment
  • Chubby Cats
    10/26/2012 07:06am

    "What seems to make the most sense to me is that once someone gets sick, it can be helpful to have some extra reserves on hand to weather the storm"

    I agree this makes seems to make sense. I'm pretty sure that my Darlene survived so many maladies for a longer period since she had some "reserves" and none of her problems were weight related.

    Unfortunately, we can't know what problems a critter might have in the future or if weight will be a factor.

    It makes sense that a critter with known heart problems be kept at a good weight because that will (hopefully) stop any extra strain on the heart, making it work harder.

 



ABOUT NUTRITION NUGGETS

JENNIFER COATES, DVM

Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.

  • Lifetime Credits:
  • Today's Credits:
Hurry Before All Seats are Taken!
Enroll
Be an A++ Pet Parent! Take fun & free courses to earn badges & certifications. Choose a course»

Poll

When did your cat last have a routine vet checkup?

* In the past 1 year
* In the past 2 years
* In the past 3 years
* More than 3 years ago


 
MORE FROM PETMD.COM