Obesity can cause respiratory problems in people and pets through a variety of mechanisms. The presence of excess fat along the chest wall and abdomen compresses the spongy lungs, reducing the amount of air taken in with each breath. In many ways, obesity is like having a heavy bag pushing down on your chest—it makes it incredibly difficult to catch your breath. This excess fat also may alter the normal breathing pattern, resulting in uneven and jerky breathing. Many dogs or cats will pant excessively after even a short walk in a desperate attempt to gain more oxygen. In pets suffering from morbid obesity may experience a ventilation- perfusion abnormality, which is basically a condition where not enough oxygen enters the body but the dog still has normal arterial carbon dioxide levels. This condition is more commonly associated with congenital heart defects. It’s hard to imagine that obesity can cause the same respiratory distress as a major birth defect.
If this is a problem for your pet, talk with us about a slower paced exercise program to help your pet still make strides to lose weight and be more active but protect his respiratory health at the same time.