Obesity is at an all time high in the UK, around 40% of dogs and cats are overweight. This means pets are weighing at least 10-20% more then their ideal weight. This is leading to a number of serious health conditions. Obesity is due to excess body fat that can impair health and welfare and shorten life expectancy.
These serious conditions include
Endocrine problems (diabetes)
Metabolic problems (fatty liver disease)
Joint and limb disorders like arthritis or cruciate rupture
Respiratory distress/ breathing problems (see my BOAS blog)
High blood pressure
Increased anaesthetic risk
Obesity not only causes serious health implications but welfare too. It can cause your pet to suffer and is debilitating. There are a number of factors that can impact obesity, not just overfeeding, such as...
Breed (eg Pugs, Beagles, Labs, Retrievers)
But we all know the major factor is the owner feeding their pets too much and not enough exercise.
How to tell if your dog or cat is overweight?
You should be able to feel the outline of your dogs ribs without an excess of fat covering.
The abdomen should be tucked up where it meets the hind quarters when viewed from the side and not bulge.
You should be able to see your dogs waist.
At tail base shouldn't be fat build up
See the following guide for more information.
What to do if your pet is overweight
Firstly the owner needs to realise there is a problem and commit to fixing it. People are so used to seeing overweight animals now they can forget what 'normal' looks like. If you are unsure please contact your vet and they can give you advice on your pets weight and a recommended weight for your particular animal.
If you have concerns your pet is overweight, a vet assessment to rule out underlying conditions initially is a good idea. Conditions like Hypothyroidism and Cushings disease in the dog can cause animals to gain weight. Once any of these conditions are ruled out then the hard work begins.
Feeding should be adjusted and quantity weighed out daily. The food bags will have quantities of food advised per pet weight per day on the back. Even a few excess grams of food a day can hamper weight loss. There are scientifically formulated diets to aid weight loss which can give great results. Diets rich in protein and fibre and low in fat are recommended for weight loss. Here are a couple of weight loss food options I often advise at work.
You should aim to feed a nutritional rich product with lower calorie content to maintain nutrient balance. Once you have selected a reduced calorie diet you must be consistent, every slip up will add up. Ideally stop shop bought snacks and treats, fresh vegetables like broccoli and carrot can be used as snacks or see my shop for all natural, healthy, bake at home treats, both veterinary developed and approved.
Weigh your pet every 2-3 weeks to monitor your success, if they are not loosing weight as planned, discuss with your vet or vet nurse about cutting the amount of food further. Also make sure no family or friends are sneaking treats when you are not about as puppy dog eyes can be very persuasive!
Exercise is just as important as feeding them correctly, the more they move the more calories they burn ... just like us! Exercise not only helps shed the pounds but also helps strengthen the cardiovascular system and aids digestion. Dogs should be walked at least twice a day if they are able. Cats that go outside usually are quite active but house cats can need a helping hand. See my blog on indoor cats for some tips.
Goal weight reached
When your pet has reached an ideal weight they will be healthier, happier and more active. You need to maintain it. Just like us humans it is very easily to fall down the slippery slope of weight gain again.There are some great foods out there to help maintain weight. Speak to your vet and they can give you advice as the last thing you want is all your hard work to go to waste.