Obesity is the most common nutritional disease of dogs and cats.
- It is an excess of body fats and is associated with many health problems.
- Obesity occurs in 20-30% of pet dogs and cats.
- It is most common in older female animals.
Is your pet overweight?
You may have thought to yourself that your pet is overweight or been told by a veterinary surgeon or nurse in the surgery. If your pet weighs over 15% more than it did as a young healthy adult, it is overweight. As a guide, if you have difficulty in feeling the ribs, then your pet has a problem. You should be just able to feel the ribs with a small amount of pressure.
Why obesity is dangerous
Overweight pets suffer more physical ailments and do not live as long as animals of average weight. Obesity often reduces a pet's enjoyment of life, its performance and the owner's enjoyment of the pet.
Health risks associated with weight gain
- Heart/respiratory disease
- Heat intolerance
- Joint disease e.g. arthritis, spinal disc problems & ruptured ligaments
- Liver disease
- Risk with surgery and anaesthesia
The reason for obesity
You must admit to yourself that the animal is overweight and realise that although there are some slight aggravating causes, the only way an animal becomes and stays overweight is because it is having TOO MUCH TO EAT ! In other words, the total daily intake of calories is more than it needs.
Many owners will not face this fact and try to persuade themselves and us that the animal is not being overfed. We often hear the same answers to our suggestions that a pet is overweight:
- "Its not what he eats"
- "She only has one meal a day"
- "We don't overfeed him"
- "Its because she hasn't had much exercise lately"
- "Its my husband/wife/mother/children - they give him extras"
- "He/she only got fat after being desexed"
All of these show that the owners are trying to persuade themselves that they are not over feeding the animal concerned. If your pet is fat, it is having too much to eat!
Exercise is the key to a healthy lifestyle: Exercise tips
- Let your pet warm up and increase exercise gradually as fitness improves. Most overweight pets are unfit so its best to begin slowly
- Try to exercise your pet with other pets
- If you can't exercise your pet, ask a family member, a friend or a dog walker to do it for you
- Join an agility club
Just the odd tidbit can add
Together with the veterinarian set a specific goal for weight reduction and estimate the time required to reach that goal. Allow 8-12 weeks to reach this "target weight". We will want to see your pet at regular intervals during and after the weight-reduction program.
Management of an overweight pet should include:
- Reducing your pets calorie intake by feeding it a low calorie high fibre food specifically formulated for reducing weight. e g. Hill's r/d and Royal Canin Obesity diets.
- Keep your pet out of the room when food is being prepared or eaten.
- Do not feed overweight pets with other pets.
- Do not feed anything other than the amount of food prescribed by the veterinarian. This includes ALL edible material taken by mouth including sweets, treats, milk etc.
- Exercise your pet regularly as directed (see exercise tips above)
- At least once a week weigh your pet and record its weight on the weight control graph available from BHVG.
Fun and games for dogs
- Fetch- throwing a ball or toy is great exercise for your dog and not too strenuous for you (never use a stick as these can splinter and cause injury to your dog).
- Hide and seek- hide a toy or some kibble and let your dog find it.
- Jogging and cycling- good for you and your dog.
- Swimming or hydrotherapy- ideal for dogs with arthritis or back problems.
Recommended exercises for your cat
Cats, particularly those with an indoor lifestyle, may not be getting sufficient exercise. Here are some ideas to boost the activity level of your cat.
- Toys- use commercial or home made cat toys to encourage active play.
- "Catch the Light" - shine a white light on the walls and let your cat play (do not use red light laser as it may damage your cat's eyes).
- "Boxing" - let your cat play in a box or paper bag.
Rewarding your pet
We all like to reward our pets. There are alternative ways to giving a reward without giving food.
- Praise and attention- give lots of cuddles and praise.
- Fun and games- play games with your pet, they love interaction with their owners.
- Walks- you know how much they enjoy these!
- Massage- a relaxing and healthy way to reward your pet.
Successful weight-reduction is rare if your pet is fed its regular diet. Decreasing the amount of regular food enough to produce weight loss may cause nutritional deficiencies and begging. Feed your pet a diet specifically formulated for weight reduction. There are two types of diet to choose from:
1) A Home Made Low Calorie Diet
This is a special high volume,low calorie diet you can cook and store in the freezer.
2) A Commercial Low Calorie Food
Hills r/d diet (dry or tin) and Royal Canin Obesity are very tasty foods that can be fed in quite large amounts to cats and dogs. The dogs we have had on these diets feel satisfied by it and have certainly lost weight very quickly. It contains everything your dog or cat needs in the way of vitamins and minerals etc. Hills r/d and Royal Canin Obesity are prescription diets and are only available from Veterinary Surgeons. They can be brought either by the can or by the bag.
If possible, avoid giving snacks, but if your pet is used to receiving them, use limited amounts of healthy snacks like carrots or rice cakes.
Table scraps are inappropriate for pets -especially those on a weight loss programme.
Low calorie snacks
- Canine r/d dry (10 kibbles) 4kcal
- Feline r/d dry (10 kibbles) 6kcal
- 1/4 cup of carrot 17kcal
- 1/4 cup of green beans 9kcal
- 1/4 apple 12kcal
- 1/4 rice cake 9kcal
- 1/2 fat free wheat cracker 6kcal