What is obesity first of all? It is defined as being at least 20% above an individual’s ideal body weight. 20%-40% above this is considered mildly obese, and 40 % is moderately. 100% overweight considered morbidly obese to the point of it being life threatening.
We are said to be a nation of pet lovers. Last year it is estimated there were approximately 20 million in our homes. In some cases though, are we doing more harm than good by overfeeding them?
So what you may ask?
“My pet seems happy and always eats it.”
“But my pet begs for food.”
“But I feed it what it says on the pack…although they do get treats and scraps too”
“My pet is always hungry”
These are just a few things people say. Obesity is becoming an increasing problem with our pets too. This is really frustrating, because it is such an easy problem to solve in most cases. Obesity can cause unnecessary suffering, and can have a real impact on their health. Even moving around can be painful. If your pet is arthritic, extra weight certainly won’t help. There are a number of conditions that can result from obesity: diabetes, heart disease, difficulty breathing, high blood pressure, and cancers.
There are certainly things that can affect whether a pet may be prone to putting a little weight on. Some breeds can be porkier than others, females tend to pile on the pounds a little more, and a neutered pet can experience weight gain. The older an animal gets, the less energetic it may be, its metabolism slows down, and they too may gain weight if not fed the correct diet.
But there are certainly things that we can do to help our pets that we are in control of:
This is without a doubt one of the best and easiest things you can change. We’re not saying you have to feed your pet something expensive and fancy (honestly, I could write a whole other blog on pet food, but not today), just give them the correct amount! All pet food has a guide on the side with a recommended feeding amount. This is usually the amount per day, not meal! (You may laugh, but I’ve had people think that it meant per meal and wonder why their pet was nearly twice the size). The best way to do this is to weigh the correct amount out on some scales, put it in a cup/glass and mark the amount. Then you have an accurate way to feed them the right amount. The guides are only guides and may need to be tweeked depending on things like how active your pet may be.
If there are several people in the home, make sure you all know when your pet has been fed so they don’t get double or even triple portions!
If your pet wolfs its food down, try things like a treat ball or slow feed bowl. This way, they get the correct amount (providing you’ve weighed it out), and it should hopefully help keep them fuller for longer, plus they are less likely to throw it all back up.
Here's an example of a dogs feeding chart (please note this is not a guide for you to follow, but an example. Each brand has their own chart based on size of kibble etc). If you don't feed them too much, you can save a few quid per year too!
Oh ho, this is a massive contributor to porky pets. People have come to me and said I feed my pet x amount of food per day. This will often be the correct amount. But then they mention they get loads of treats per day. Treats are great for training or just if you’re feeling kind. But they have calories too! They should only really get a small amount of treats per day, if not week. You would do well to reduce the pets overall feed for the day to take into account for the extra treats. You’ve got to be cruel to be kind in some cases. It’s probably best not to give your pet scraps off your plate too. Not only can this encourage begging behaviour as they learn to expect this all the time, not all human food is appropriate for them, and in some instances can be poisonous to them. (Again, I have met people who have said this is something they are guilty of. I’ve recommended a few simple things, and they’ve come back weeks later and said it made a big difference).
If you like to give your dog treats, but want to keep its weight in check, things like carrots are great. High in fibre, low in fat, job done. Or using a treat ball or kong, or even scrunching the treats up in paper and hiding them, are all great ideas. Make it interesting for them, make them work for their treat. My cats don’t get a treat now until I get a high five! (That’s right, my cats can high five. It may not cause any weight loss, but I just wanted to put that here… They do have a treat ball though).
Another method of ditching the blub, make sure your pet is getting the right exercise and not just sitting there all day. Make sure your dog is getting the correct number of walks and that they are long enough. A five minute walk for a Husky will do absolutely nothing.
Get a toys on a string, a laser pen, an empty loo roll holder and make the cat run around for several small bursts per day.
Get your rabbits out for a walk! If that’s too far, just ensure they are getting out in the garden at least once a day for a few hours or so.
It’s good practice to keep a record of their weight. This can help you know how much they need to lose, or if they’ve piled any on. If their weight changes dramatically this may be a symptom of something.
Another good practice is to worm your pet regularly. If your pet is eating the same amount, but losing weight, it may have worms. Always give the correct dosage based on the pets weight. If it doubt speak to a vet to get the correct wormer and dose.
Here is an example of pet body score charts to help determine if your pet may in the correct condition.
This little blog is but a simple guide on just a couple of aspects of pet diet, and is not an exhaustive list of ways to fight pet obesity. Feel free to share how you have trimmed your pets weight down if you would like. Every pet is different, what works for one, may not work for another. If you have any concerns about your pet, always seek veterinary advice.
Animal Care Assistant