11/04/2012 10:08 pm ET

Obese Dogs May Also Be At Risk For Metabolic Syndrome, Study Suggests

Obese humans aren't the only ones at risk for metabolic syndrome -- a new study shows that obese dogs face the same risk, too.

Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of conditions, including high cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure, as well as excess body fat, according to the Mayo Clinic. Metabolic syndrome raises the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

The study, published in the journal BMC Veterinary Research, involved looking at the health of 35 dogs who were obese. Of those dogs, 20 percent had metabolic syndrome -- with low levels of the sugar- and fat-controlling protein adiponectin and high levels of insulin in their blood.

The researchers also found that if the dogs lost weight, these metabolic issues improved.

"This new research creates a lot of new questions for us. It suggests that dogs develop metabolic syndrome, similar to humans with obesity-related health problems," study researcher Dr. Alex German, of the University of Liverpool's Department of Obesity and Endocrinology, said in a statement. "We now need to investigate, however, what health consequences this may have for dogs. The key point for us is that the problem can be resolved with successful weight loss, and this must be a priority for pet owners with obese dogs."

Recently, Reuters reported that rates of pet obesity are increasing -- more than half of adult-aged dogs are obese -- prompting pet-focused exercise classes to spring up at fitness companies.

Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine has even opened up an obesity clinic for animals; one of its missions is to help overweight or obese pets lose weight, HuffPost Green earlier reported.