Written by: Alison Laurie, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets Inverness
Just as obesity is a problem in human health, obesity in our pets is becoming an increasingly worrying and serious health issue. Extra weight places an extra burden on virtually all of an overweight pet’s organ systems, as well as their joints and ligaments. Furthermore Joint problems can then in turn lead to an inactive lifestyle, which then in turn only perpetuates the on-going obesity problem.
Sometimes we give our pets ‘treats’ just because we love them. We may even give them some of our own food, or we make sure that our dog or cat never has an empty food bowl. However, our own ‘human’ food is often far too high in fat and also too high in sugars for your pet to metabolise properly and it may actually cause your pet major health problems or to become a more fussy and finicky eater who will refuse to eat its more healthy advised pet food appropriate for breed, age and stage. Your pet does not need an unlimited amount of food or continual treats. If he is fed extra daily calories in this way then his health will sadly eventually ultimately suffer as a result.
Health Risks for the Overweight Pet:
- Skeletal stress, including damage to joints, bones, and ligaments
- Respiratory problems, increased blood pressure, and heart disease
- Decreased stamina and exercise intolerance
- Liver disease
- Digestive disorders
- Decreased immune function
- Skin and hair coat problems
- Increased risk of cancer
- Urinary tract infections
- Decreased quality and length of life
- Tips for preventing obesity in your pet
Choose the correct type of food for your individual pet's breed, age and stage and the also make sure you feed the correct measured amount of daily food for your pet. Simply cutting back on the amount of food you feed your pet may also decrease the daily amount of essential vitamins and minerals it receives. Prescription specific weight loss diets can ensure an adequate intake of essential nutrients while eliminating feeding any excess calories. Your Vet and Vet Nurses can help you choose the right food tailored for your pet. It is easier to weigh an advised daily amount of food and then strictly feed this measured daily amount only per day in set, divided measured amounts.
Regularly monitor your pet’s weight. Even a small change in your pet’s weight can have big consequences to his mobility and general health.
Regulate your young pet's weight. Stop the problem early on before it starts by feeding your kitten or puppy a healthy food at appropriate amounts for his breed and age, making sure he has exercise appropriate and advised for his age, and by not giving him extra pet treats or human food.
Be firm. Do not feed your pet additional pet ‘treats’ or human food. Your pet will soon understand that he does not get unlimited treats, if you have to, you can reward him instead with a small amount of his set daily measured amount of food, this way you will not be adding additional calories to his daily advised intake.
Make sure that there are no underlying medical problems or diseases. Just as in humans, obesity is sometimes a clinical symptom of a chronic, underlying medical problem and may not be successfully addressed until any underlying, concurrent medical issues are dealt with. Make sure that your pet has a Vet check before any diet is started to ensure that no underlying health problems are missed, for example heart disease or hypothyroidism.
Do Encourage daily exercise, take your dog for regular daily walks appropriate for his age and stage. Play with your cat some indoor cats can lead a very sedate, lazy lifestyle and they have to be encouraged to get up and move around and encourage play. There are a lot of new cat toys available now which assist with encouraging indoor play with your cat, if his metabolism is increased with exercise he will be more likely to lose some of his excess weight.
What to do if You Think Your Pet is Overweight
If you think your pet is overweight then do make an appointment so we can give your pet a thorough health check and advice on an appropriate, correctly tailored diet for your individual pet and an advised exercise program. After a clinical examination your Vet will determine if there are any concerns about any possible medical problems contributing to your pet's obesity and will then be able to give you advice on how your pet should lose weight safely. Our Veterinary Nurses run weight clinics which can aid and help you with your pet’s weight loss regime and give you the help and professional advice you need to reach his target weight. Contact the practice to arrange an appointment for a weight check and let’s start healthier lifestyle.