Unfortunately, obesity amongst pets is becoming an increasing problem worldwide.
All to often we can be "killing our pets with kindness". It is a misconception that dogs should have a ‘sausage shape’ to their bodies and cats are supposed to have a saggy belly; many owners may not even know what the ideal weight of their pet should be.
Your pet’s weight is in your hands
Pets, however big or small, can be very rewarding and offer love, joy and companionship to their owner.
The responsibility of owning a pet is not just providing love and affection, but it also involves maintaining their health and well-being.
A pet relies on their owner for food, shelter, care and exercise. The owner decides how much food and exercise their pet receives and it rests on their shoulders to ensure their pet remains fit and healthy.
Most pets love food and will keep eating so long as it is being given to them, so the ‘he must be hungry, he’s still eating’ theory is not always necessarily true. It is a survival technique that predisposes animals to think they must eat whenever possible because they are unsure when their next meal may be and/or competitors may pinch their food.
Although occasionally obesity may be due to a medical reason, in most cases it is caused by too much food and/or too little exercise!
Any calories that are not used up throughout the day are stored as fat.
High-fat diets and treats are a major component.
Although, pets may seem happy and content when eating, obesity can cause serious health complications. Being overweight reduces an animal’s quality of life, they are unable to play and exercise properly which reduces their sense of wellbeing. Inability to exercise and excess weight will also reduce the animal’s resistance to medical illness and disease which can damage their body, some of which may be irreversible.
The list of medical problems caused by obesity is endless. All of these problems will shorten the life expectancy of your pet and reduce the time you have together.
- Locomotion difficulties – arthritis
- Circulatory problems – heart disease
- Respiratory problems
- Skin disease
- High anaesthetic risk
- Low immunity so more likely to get other illnesses/disease
Keeping your pet active is a great way to keep them trim, however if they’re overweight care must be taken as additional weight puts excess pressure on the joints and this can lead to further problems, such as osteoarthritis. Owners must begin with low impact exercise and increase this slowly to complement a weight loss and feeding programme.
Hydrotherapy is another option. Exercising in water (with a trained specialist) can build muscle and aid weight loss whilst supporting the joints. Dogs often enjoy hydrotherapy, however cats may not be quite so convinced.
A good quality, well balanced diet is essential for a healthy lifestyle regardless of weight. It is advisable to reduce the amount of food gradually so that the body has time to adjust to its new lifestyle. This means that it may take weeks or even months to achieve the desired weight loss, depending on how overweight your pet is.
Specialised diets, such as the Hills Metabolic range are also available; and these are designed to help your pet lose weight safely whilst still giving them all the correct nutrients their bodies require. When fed properly and combined with regular exercise and weight checks we’ve seen some amazing results in both dogs and cats.
Slow and steady wins the race!
Losing weight too quickly can be just as harmful as being overweight in the first place. Animals, like humans, need a balance of nutrients (e.g. protein, carbohydrate, vitamins) to be healthy. If you suddenly decrease the quantity of food your pet receives it may not be getting all these vital nutrients, or worse, it may respond by storing all the calories it receives as fat – an emergency response.
If you are unsure about your pet’s weight and would like advice the staff at de Montfort Veterinary are trained and qualified to help you. Our nursing team run a weight loss programme which can help you manage your pet’s weight. We offer specialist advice from our nurse qualified in nutrition who will develop an individual feeding and exercise programme for your pet with follow up appointments to check the progress and make changes where necessary.
Please call the practice if you would like more information