What if I told you that by keeping him thin you can decrease the chance of your dog getting cancer? How is that for a really good reason?
Jasmine's best buddy died of cancer at the age of 7. He was always on the chubby side. “It's just a bit of winter fat,” his owner would say. Of course he had more going for him than just that, and he was a Boxer. Apparently, Boxers are the second breed most prone to cancer, right after Golden Retrievers.
The average life span of Boxers should be around 11 years, though some resources list as high as 11 to 14 years. However, Jasmine's vet wasn't at all surprised that he would have died of cancer at the age of 7!
There are a number of factors contributing to canine cancer, some of which we have lesser control over than others. When I brought some of them up with Jasmine's vet, however, he felt very strongly that obesity plays much more substantial role that many of those discussed. “Fat is highly metabolically active,” he said.
Fat is metabolically active? What does that mean?
What we all know is that fat tissue is the means of long term energy storage. This function was very useful when neither man or dog knew where their next dinner was coming from--not so much today. You might also know that fat tissue serves as insulation from heat and cold and as protective padding around organs.
What you probably don't know, is that fat tissue (adipose) is in fact a complex organ with other important functions, including hormone production!
You heard right. Fat cells, also called adipocytes or lipocytes, besides their well known function of storing energy, also produce a number of hormones (adipokines)! This classifies fat tissue as an endocrine organ with systemic influence!
Dr. Lorie Huston wrote an award winning article about the role these hormones play in obesity--Recognizing Obesity in Dogs & Cats as a Disease: Examining the Endocrine and Secretory Function of Fat Cells.
However, the influence of adipokines goes even further. One of these hormones, TNFa, or Tumor necrosis factor-alpha, is involved in immune response. TNFa hormone regulates immune cells and it is able to induce inflammation, and anti-tumor response—thus tumor necrosis factor, it kills tumors.
Feeling more respect for fat tissue yet?
An adipokine that has been getting a lot of attention as a link between obesity and cancer is called adiponectin. Adiponectin has been found to inhibit the development and growth of cancer. The more adiponectin is present in the blood, the higher is your dog's resistance to cancer.
Well, this is all great, doesn't that make obesity a good thing then? The more the merrier?
Wouldn't that be nice! Unfortunately, that is not how this works, quite the opposite. Obesity inhibits the production of adiponectin, which increases vulnerability to cancer.
The levels of the TNFa (Tumor necrosis factor-alpha) on the other hand do increase proportionately. However, because of their pro-inflammatory function their increased levels lead to chronic inflammation and insulin resistance. Further, chronic inflammation is also considered a contributing factor in cancer!
With hormones, optimal level is the key!
Hormones are chemical messengers that regulate physiological functions in the dog's body, such as metabolism, growth and sexual development. Disturbances in their proper levels have profound systemic impact. Take a look at the result of improper levels of the thyroid, adrenal or pancreatic hormones! Hormones produced by fat tissue are no exception.
Your dog's body has been designed to maintain health. However, it can only do that in its optimal state. Among other health benefits, keeping your dog at his optimal weight plays an important role in cancer prevention!
It's your dog's health!
Know Your Dog's Enemies: Overweight
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Medical Jargon Explained: Hypo- versus Hyperglycemia