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Piling on the Pounds

02-08-2010


It amazes me how perceptions of animal welfare have become so distorted. A recent survey carried out by the U.K.’s leading equine charity, World Horse Welfare (WHW) found that over half the people questioned in a recent poll could not recognize an overweight horse. Most worryingly, however, the charity reported that when its field officers turn up to investigate a supposedly thin horse, they often discover that the individual in question is in good condition, whereas its companions are obese.

WHW points out that few people are aware that equine obesity is a serious issue, which can shorten the lives of horses, as well as cause problems such as laminitis, a condition affecting the feet. Obese equines--including ponies--are also at greater risk of developing equine metabolic syndrome. This is a condition similar to diabetes, which itself is linked with obesity in people.

Of course, it's not just horses that can suffer from obesity. Dogs and an increasing number of cats are afflicted by this condition. It is being seen more frequently in reptiles, too, particularly in the case of lizards, such as Bosc monitors (Varanus exanthematicus). They would normally undergo a period of estivation, when their level of activity and food intake would be greatly reduced in the wild. It is at this stage that they would usually rely on their stores of fat to sustain themselves. Too many owners, however, simply keep feeding these greedy lizards consistently, without actually observing just how much weight they are putting on.

Obesity can even be a problem in leopard geckos (Eublepharis macularius). There are now welcomed moves afoot amongst U.K. breeders to come up with a standardized body scoring system. This can then be used as a guide to help people determine the condition of their lizards visually, in order to ensure that they are kept at a healthy, optimal weight.



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