Is Your Pet Overweight?
As a pet owner, we all know how hard it is to resist those puppy dog eyes and cries of hunger that we often receive from our pets; guilting us into giving them that extra piece of meat off our plates, and scooping in that extra bit of food into their dinner bowl each night. It is easy to become victim to over feeding our animals as it is often given out of love and wanting to keep our pets happy. But what most of us don’t realise is that we may actually be putting our pet’s health a risk and giving them an unhealthy lifestyle. If we as pet owners are conscious about the risks of an overweight pet, we may think differently about how many treats we sneak under the table to them at dinner.
Is your pet overweight?
It will usually be visually obvious to see if your pet is overweight. However sometimes it can be hard to tell, for example if your pet has very long fur, or a naturally large frame.
To tell if your pet could do with shedding a few pounds, feel around the ribs and spine; you should be able to locate both with only a thin layer of fat separating the skin from the bones. If you can’t find the ribcage easily; your pet is carrying more weight than they should.
If you are ever unsure, your local veterinary practice will have weighing scales and a weight chart which indicate normal weight ranges for different breeds of dog and cat.
Shifting the weight
It can be hard to know where to start when adjusting your pet to a new diet and lifestyle. The best place to start is by booking in for a weight clinic at your veterinary practice. Most veterinary centers offer this facility, usually with a qualified nurse. Here you can get advice on diet and nutrition, exercise, and set targets to reach with your pet. You will most likely have regular check-ups every few weeks to monitor your pet’s progress until the targets have been reached.
Leading a healthier lifestyle
Food - The key thing that we should stick to when feeding our pets is portion control. Each pet will have a recommended amount of food that they should have each day depending on the pet’s age, size, breed, activity level and many other various factors. This is why it is important to get regular check-ups to identify if your pet needs to gain, loose or maintain their weight. Different types of food can be given for each of these needs, which can be recommended to you by veterinary professionals or nutritionists. These guidelines should be stuck to in order to reach a healthy weight for your pet.
Activity – For dogs; it is recommended we take them out at least twice a day for a period of time depending of the size and breed of the dog. Larger breeds generally will need longer than small breed dogs. Taking your dog out for walks not only helps keep them fit and healthy, but also helps with socialisation and is a great way to train your dog. Cats generally take exercise into their own hands, however we can help by playing with them with toys inside the house, to get them up off that sofa!
Discipline – This means for us! As owners we have to learn to say no sometimes to those big eyes looking at us as we eat our dinner. It is good to get into the routine of a set amount of treats per day, not – whenever we feel like giving them one. It is best to give our pets treats when we are out and about with them, for example – giving your dog a treat after he was well behaved on a walk, or after they are obedient to a command. There are also a lot of pet toys which incorporate giving treats such as a ball with small holes in, your pet will have to play with them to get them out – keeping them active and occupied.
Keeping your pet at a healthy weight will not only pro-long their life, but will also give it better quality. Having an overweight or obese pet can lead to many different illnesses such as heart and respiratory problems, joint and muscle pain and will generally put a strain on everyday life. Just like us, animals need the right nutrition and activity to be happy and healthy and enable them to live a fun, happy life like all animals should.
Student Veterinary Nurse