Picture the scene… You made too much for dinner and the dog is looking up at you with those big brown eyes, pleading for just a tiny taste of your delicious leftovers. One titbit is followed by another and often several family members are doing exactly the same thing.
It’s hard to resist the adorable, begging tactics our pets employ but the long term effects of over-feeding can be devastating. A large increase in body fat can lead to diabetes, arthritis, heart & respiratory problems and ultimately make your pet’s life miserable. Read on to learn more about the causes of obesity in pets and what you can do to keep you pet at a healthy weight.
What is obesity? Obesity is a disease which affects around 25% of cats and 35% of dogs in the UK. It’s the result of an excess of body fat (20% extra or more) which causes ill health and an overall poor quality of life. It’s a serious problem, often affecting animals for many years of their lives and sometimes causing an early death. Other factors, such as neutering, can make pets more prone to obesity but the main cause is pet owners feeding way over the recommended amount of calories each day and not providing enough exercise to burn them off.
How can I check if my pet is overweight?
Knowing your pet’s weight and monitoring any changes is vital. It’s much harder to spot weight gain when you see your pet everyday. Ask to use the scales at the local vet or (if they are small enough!) pick up your pet while you stand on a bathroom scales and subtract your own weight from the measurement. Can you see and feel your pet’s ribs and waist without too much trouble? Your dog’s belly should look ‘tucked’ up from a side view.
How can I help my pet lose weight?
The best solution is to choose a complete diet and stick to the recommended feeding amounts according to the age, weight and activity levels of your pet. The side of pet food packets should normally include a chart with recommended feeding guidelines. To measure your pet’s daily portions accurately, place a cup on some scales. Once you have the weight of the cup, use it to scoop up your pet’s kibble. If you subtract the original weight of the cup from this amount then you know the weight of food in each cupful, and can measure out each meal accurately without the use of any scales!
To lose any significant extra weight of course pets need to eat less than the calories they need each day to burn fat reserves. Simply cutting down their portion sizes has two problems though one is unhappy pets who don’t feel full after their meals and the other is that the other nutrients, vitamins and minerals they need will also be cut down. A better option may be choosing a diet foods for cats or diet foods for dogs with reduced calories but still the same portion size and balance of other nutirents.
Over feeding fatty treats and table leftovers also contributes to obesity. If you do want to feed treats during the day or for training, why not take them from your pet’s daily kibble portion?
- Reduced calories and fat
- Dietary fibre which will help keep your pet’s tummy feeling fuller for longer
- L-Carnitine is added to some foods to help your pet convert fat into energy more efficiently
- Joint care supplements such as Green Lipped Mussel extract or Glucosamine and Chondroitin to help ease the stress on the joints of overweight larger pets
- Immunity boosters – antioxidants, such as yucca extract and beta-carotene, help boost the immune systems which can be weakened in obese pets