Most Americans tend to overfeed their pets. Approximately 50 million dogs and 56 million cats were obese or overweight in 2018. When you can’t reduce your companion’s kibble intake and cut back on pâté, could weight loss surgery be the answer?
The question was answered by veterinarians at Cornell University who performed slimming surgery on two obese cats. After the surgery, the animals were not on pain medications and were eating normally. After two months, the cats lost half of what they gained during the study.
“There have been a lot of studies done on weight loss surgery in animals, but none done on humans,” said Nicole Buote, DVM, a veterinary surgeon at Cornell and the person who performed those operations. “To my knowledge, this is one of the first times the surgery was done for animals, as opposed to for people.”
What Is a Partial Gastrectomy?
Buote and her colleagues performed a partial gastrectomy on the two cats, who had been fattened up to be 50% heavier than they should be. But even then, neither cat had a potbelly; one weighed 15 pounds before surgery and the other 9 pounds – a far cry from being the record-holder.
In people, a partial gastrectomy involves removing some of the stomach pouch to reduce its size. The retrofitted organ only holds so much food, which means cats – in this case – feel full more quickly and don’t eat as much.
The laparoscopic procedure will only take one and a half hours and is done under general anesthesia. According to Buote, the cats recovered without complications.
All the cats in Buote’s study fared well and even lost weight: the 15-pounder became 12.5 pounds, while the other weighed in at 9 pounds before the procedure and only 7 pounds after it. She says more research is needed to confirm if the surgery will help with obesity and diabetes.
Cats often get type 2 diabetes and there’s a benefit to weight loss in diabetes, just like in people, Buote says. “Our goal is to see if this offers a good alternative for some obese animals.”
Just like for people, for pets, surgery should not be the first stop on a weight loss journey, she says.
“As much as I love surgery, I don’t want to be doing partial gastrectomies on cats and dogs just because their owners don’t want to change their lifestyle to improve their pet’s health” she says.
Changing your pet’s diet and exercising are good first steps. A veterinarian can help you make those changes before doing anything else.
Buote says, This surgery is still in the research stages, but owners may be facing a $2,500 to $3,500 bill for their feline friends if they decided to go that route.
Fast weight loss may be dangerous for felines.
Says Raymond Kudej, A veterinary surgeon at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in Grafton, MA, If cats lose weight too fast, they can develop fatty liver and die from that. There is a chance that the surgery may cause side effects, and the outcomes will be unpredictable.
The lesson then for pet owners is this: Watching what you put in their bowls is better than letting them go under the knife.