Obesity is officially defined as a disease in which excessive body fat has accumulated to such an extent that the health of an animal may be adversely affected. In the past, many veterinary surgeons have not considered obesity as a serious concern, instead believing it to be a cosmetic issue. However, it is now recognised to be an important medical disease, as it may predispose patients to a variety of other disorders, including osteoarthritis, cardiorespiratory problems, diabetes mellitus, constipation, dermatitis, anaesthetic risk and reduced life expectancy. Furthermore, following recent studies showing that approximately 40 per cent of pets are overweight, obesity is now the most common medical disorder of companion animals and a major welfare concern. This article highlights the risk factors associated with obesity in small animals, discusses how the condition can be managed and suggests some strategies for how it might be prevented.
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