Pet obesity is a growing concern amongst our pets. Its estimated around 30% of our canine population are overweight.
Whilst a few extra pounds doesn’t really hurt that much, large amount of extra fat can lead to problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and osteoarthritis if left untreated.
Pets who are de-sexed are more prone to weight gain but not all pets who are de-sexed will gain weight, it’s all down to their diet and exercise!
There are some medial conditions such as hypothyroidism that can lead to excessive weight gain. As always the first step is a veterinary check up to rule out a medial cause for obesity or sudden onset weight gain.
If a medial check comes back as normal we then look at identifying the cause of excess weight.
Too many calories
Cats and dogs require a relatively small amount of calories to keep them going, especially if not a working animal. Weigh your pet and write it down on their weight loss chart. Then read the packaging of the food you purchase and look at the recommended amount to be fed. Usually this will be a figure in grams or cups of feed.
Weigh out their food each time you feed to make sure you’re not accidently overfeeding. Even a few biscuits extra over a year can add up to a few extra pounds in weight gain.
Try using a smaller scoop or a smaller bowl, this is related to human psychology in that the bowl looks fuller and takes longer to fill up therefore we perceive there being more in the bowl for our pet than there actually is.
Not enough exercise
The old saying of “calories in – calories burnt = excess stored” is very true for our pets as well as ourselves.
Most pets need at least 20 minutes to an hour of exercise once daily to help burn those calories they consume. This can be all at once or spread out through the day if you are time poor.
Consider getting a pet walker or making time to play at the end of each day.
It’s important to exercise within your pets capability so try not to do no exercise during the week and then a four hour hike at the weekend as this can lead to muscle soreness.
Everyone loves to give their pet treats, myself included. However the calories in some treats can be quite substantial, and a few of those treats can equal a whole meal. This leads to excess weight gain. Instead of store bought treats, how about carrot sticks or cooked zucchini. By giving veggies instead of treats we are still able to reward good behaviour and bond with our pet without the added danger of extra calories.
Another option if your pet doesn’t like veggies is to simply use the biscuits from their regular diet and give a few as a treat, remembering to take this from their daily allocation of pet food.
Dieting can be tough. Try not to crash diet (severely restrict) your pet as this can result in destructive behaviours around the home as pets deal with hunger. Aim to lose the weight slowly over a few months ideally 1-2% of bodyweight a month. There are specially formulated weight loss diets that have been created to help with weight loss. It’s important if you are using a special diet to feed only this diet.
Overall the benefits of weight loss and keeping your pet at a healthy body weight far outweighs the stress of dieting in the long term. Whilst it can be a real challenge to get some pets to lose weight, most are able to do so relatively easily. Please be encouraged that with the right support weight loss is possible! Many veterinary clinics will run free weight loss programmes for cats and dogs so it’s worth looking to see if your clinic offers this.