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Obesity and the Immune System in Dogs and Cats

Diamond V’s Tammi Epp, DVM, PhD, DACVSMR offers insights on the relationship between obesity and the immune system in dogs and cats in this interview filmed live at Petfood Forum 2019 in Kansas City, MO.


Dr. Epp: My name is Dr. Tammi Epp and I’m the Director for Monogastric Health Research and Technical Support for Diamond V.

Question: What should pet owners know about obesity and their animal’s immune system?

Dr. Epp: Obesity is a condition in pets that owners are not as aware of that as they should be and their perceptions are not quite as accurate. So one of the things they should do probably is consult with their veterinarian and learn how to body condition score their animals.

The reason this is so important is that I think owners don’t realize that the immune system is a factor in obesity. First of all, obese animals have a low level of subclinical inflammation in their bodies, and this can impact things like other metabolic diseases like diabetes and things of that nature. It can also impact the onset or aggravation of osteoarthritis in these animals.

So if an owner is not aware that’s occurring, they don’t know how to counteract that in their animal either through nutrition or some other kind of treatment. So again it’s important in these conditions that the owners understand that an optimally functioning immune system is key.

The purpose of inflammation is that the body wants to naturally heal itself, and that’s why there’s inflammation. The problem is in these certain cases with obesity or arthritis or diabetes, this inflammation has gotten out of control so the immune system needs to be balanced. And that’s part of the optimized immune system — so it needs to know when to shut off the inflammation as well as when to initiate it.