It probably doesn’t surprise you to learn that obesity is extremely common in our pets. What may surprise you is that the conditions that we as humans suffer from when we are overweight are just as big a problem for our pets.
Diabetes in cats is often secondary to consistently overeating and a diagnosis of diabetes unfortunately leads to a lifelong regime of twice daily insulin injections and a tendency for a number of other health concerns. Heart disease is especially common in small breed dogs – as you can imagine carrying around extra weight just puts more strain on an already overworked heart. Similarly, cats and dogs suffering from arthritis struggle significantly more when they are overweight. If an animal is 30% overweight (which is common!) they have 30% more force going through their arthritic joints too – it is not hard to understand why losing weight would lead to a better quality of life for these animals.
So how do you tell if your pet is overweight?
There are some human adults that would be significantly overweight at 70kg and others that would be significantly underweight at 70kg. The same goes for our pets – there is no ‘ideal weight’ based on breed. It all depends on body shape and the size of their frame. Rather than looking at the scales, we need to look at the animal to assess whether they are overweight. When looking from above there should be a drawn in “waist” between the back of the ribs and the hips - it shouldn’t be a straight line and it definitely shouldn’t be bulging out!! When looking from the side the abdomen should rise up from the back of their ribs to their back legs – again we want to avoid the bulge!
Have a look at these photos of Flo modelling her healthy waistline:
Another thing to check is that you should be able to feel the rib bones relatively easily – you don’t want them to be visibly sticking out but you shouldn’t need to dig round to try and find them.
If I find that my pet is overweight, what can I do?
Excess food intake is by far the most common cause of obesity in pets – exercise can help but in order to achieve any significant weight loss the diet is the first thing that needs to improve. Weight loss does take some dedication but there are a number of things that can help the process:
- Avoid feeding overweight cats by letting them graze all day – cutting back to two meals a day is ideal
- Become more aware of the “extras” your pet is getting. You may well be feeding the appropriate amount but by the time they have then stolen the cat’s biscuits, had a few treats during the day and half a sausage that was left on someone’s plate at dinner time they could easily have added 50% or more to their daily energy intake. Just cutting out the extras can often make a huge difference.
- If you don’t think there are any “extras” to blame, try measuring the amount you feed each day and reducing it by a quarter.
- There are also many different forms of commercial weight loss diets available which are lower in calories so the dog or cat have a lower energy intake without feeling liked they are being starved.
Hopefully these tips can help your pets shed some unnecessary kilos – good luck! If you are struggling, we do run a programme for “podgy pets” to help with weight loss – just come in and see us!