Dr. Kelly Swanson, a professor of animal and nutritional sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign just published an article on the topic of pet obesity in the Journal of Animal Science. His research is designed to explore how foods alter gene expression in our pets, a field called nutrigenomics. He thinks that domestication (reducing the need for animals to hunt or compete for food) may contribute to the rise in pet obesity. Since domesticated animals also spend less time and energy trying to reproduce, thanks to spaying and neutering, they do not require as much energy in their diets. The excess energy they consume, therefore, is converted into fat.
Being overweight is not just a problem for humans. Reportedly over 50% of dogs and cats are overweight or obese in the United States. Similar to humans, overweight and obesity in pets causes chronic diseases that can decrease a pet’s lifetime. It also makes it more difficult for them to fit through the pet door.
de Godoy MRC, Swanson KS. Nutrigenomics: Using gene expression and molecular biology data to understand pet obesity. Journal of Animal Science. Epub Ahead of Print.
Image of obese cat from Ann Arbor Animal Hospital