We’ve all been guilty of overindulging when it comes to eating - and when we’ve overdone it, out come the scales and calorie counter!
Pets can also feel the effects of having a little bit extra around the middle, and often owners underestimate the long term health problems associated with being overweight.
Just like in humans, obesity is a growing problem in the companion animal field, with more than 50% of animals unhealthily overweight! Many dogs and cats suffer illnesses and injuries that have been brought on by, or influenced by, their extra weight. Whether we like it or not, as owners we have to do what’s best for our pet when it comes to feeding… despite those eyes begging for more food!
Injuries: One of the most common injuries associated with obesity in pets is knee damage. Acute injuries such as ruptured cruciate ligaments and torn tendons are all extremely common reasons for coming to the Vet. More chronic injuries such as early-onset arthritis is unfortunately an irreversible outcome of obesity.
Life Long Illness: Many internal problems result from carrying too much weight, and the longer a pet is obese, the more likely they are of experiencing irreversible and lifelong illnesses. Obese animals are at a much greater risk of lifelong illnesses such as Diabetes or Liver Disease than leaner animals. All illnesses require ongoing medications and testing, which becomes expensive.
Cardiovascular Disease: Obese pets likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease increases markedly from that of an animal in a healthy weight range. The increased pressure on the heart and vascular system creates a huge number of problems for our pet’s – not only does the heart degenerate over time with the extra pressure, but it also puts our pets at much greater risk for other complications.
How do you tell if your pet is overweight?
- When you look down at your pet from above, your pet should have a lovely little waist, or hourglass figure. If they resemble a coffee table, they are carrying too much weight.
- A very obese pet may have neck fat, a sagging belly, and fat along the hips.
- When running your hands down their side, you won’t be able to easily feel their ribs if they are overweight.
The best way to see if your pet is overweight is to duck into our clinic, pop them on the scales and talk to a Vet or Vet Nurse about your pet’s weight. We'll be able to point you in the right direction with weight loss tips and tricks, as well as a healthy weight range for your pet to aim for.
How do we help our pet lose weight?
There are some great products around to help your pet lose weight, but the most important factor is… food!
- Look at the food your feeding your pet
- Choose dry food over wet food – wet food contains more calories and requires you to feed roughly seven times more food to get the same nutritional content as dry food.
- Switch to a Prescription Diet food for healthy weight loss – simply reducing the amount you feed your pet of their current food can sometimes cause more problems. If we reduce the amount we feed, we’re not only reducing calories, but also all the other important components your dog needs. A Prescription food has a lower calorie count, without taking away anything else your pet’s body needs to stay healthy.
- Choose low fat treats – unfortunately the yummy treats are often the fattiest ones! Scrape out the marrow in the middle of bones, switch meat for quality biscuits and choose smaller treats over large. Every bit counts!
- Consider using boredom buster toys, or toys for feeding times – extending the time it takes for your pet to eat their food and encouraging them to work for it are both excellent ways to help your pet get a little extra exercise and feel fuller for longer.
- For our dog owners, start with small increases in either the distance you walk or the number of times you go a day – 1 walk that you extend by 5 minutes each time, or two shorter walks a days are a great idea.
- Make them fun! Go to different places, find new favourite spots and meet new people – you’ll both enjoy walk time more!
- For our cat owners – invest in a game feeder, where you cat is not only eating but stimulated and active as well. That little bit of extra movement trying to get their food will make a huge difference over time.
- Start introducing a ‘playtime’ each day for 5-10 minutes – use a dangler toy, laser pointer or other interactive toys to get them running around, even if it’s only a little. Not only will they grow to enjoy it, but you will get to spend quality time together.
Helping your pet stay healthy not only means they’re happy, but it also means they will be with you for many years longer.