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Ask a Vet: Horror stories surround obese pets
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In the past three weeks, I’ve discussed the concepts related to weight for pets, including what really causes weight gain or loss as well as the consequences of obesity.

This week, let’s learn some trivia about pets and weight.

Pickwick syndrome is named after a work by Charles Dickens. Thankfully, it is a rare condition. However, the animal (or human) with Pickwick syndrome is so morbidly obese that fat has been stored to an extreme degree and interferes with the normal function of the body.

Examples include excessive fat inside the chest hampers lung function. A dog may have a small bleb of fat behind the eye that functions as a cushion for the tender structures of the area. I once saw a pug so obese he could not close his eyes because the fat was so enlarged it pushed his eyes past where his lids could cover.

It happens, but don’t let it happen to your pet.

First, feed your pet a sensible diet in a sensible amount.

Second, keep your pet active.

Lean, working tissue demands energy and burns it. Certain diseases can change the metabolism and cause weight gain. Overproduction of cortisol (Cushing’s disease) or low thyroid hormone levels are examples.

But often, it’s too much food, not enough exercise. Small world, huh?

So what do you do if your pet is fat? Make permanent, slight changes. No crash diets. No magic medicines. Just figure out how much energy they need and get them active and be dedicated.

My personal dog in vet school was 65 pounds at 9 years old and was a healthy 45 pounds when I graduated four years later. It works for older dogs, too.

And all the humans in the household need to be on the same page. If your dog lives with a million people and only one will feed him bacon, he will find that weak link. Your goals will never be realized.

So keep your pets in good shape. It helps them, and it’s infectious to help you as well. Active, happy pets tend to have active, happy owners.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at

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