According to veterinarians, overfeeding is the most common mistake pet owners make in feeding their dogs or cats. Weight management is cited most often by veterinarians as one of the most important things pet owners can do to increase the length of their pet’s life, yet fewer than 2 in 10 pet owners feed their pet(s) the amount recommended on the pet food package and they are more likely to choose what their pet likes to eat over what they should eat for their health.
How do I know if my pet is overweight?
The best way is to stand above pets and look down on them. You should be able to feel their ribs but not see them. If you can see them, they are too skinny. If you can’t see their ribs, and place your hands on the side of their chest and still can’t, they’re overweight.
Both dogs and cats should also have a nice taper at their waist (between the abdomen and where the hips go into the socket). If there is very little or none at all, they are too heavy and they’ll be oval shaped.
You can also find advice online by looking at your pet’s Body Condition Score (BCS) where you can look at pictures of your type of pet and what they should look like.
Best of all is ask your vet what your pet’s healthy weight is and weigh them regularly. Most vets are quite happy for you to bring your larger pet to their clinic to be weighed on their special scale at no cost. This is also a good way to get your pet used to visiting the vets.
How is obesity bad for my pet?
According to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association pet obesity can cause:
A shorter life span
Difficulty diagnosing other health disorders due to obesity
Greater risk during surgery due to reduced lung function and/or decreased liver and kidney function. Obese pets also require more anaesthesia than pets who are a healthy weight.
Greater potential for high blood pressure, which can include the risk of heart, kidney and blood vessel diseases.
Increased chances of arthritis and spinal problems, as well as reduced mobility.
Less endurance and more fatigue.
Obese pets may be less able to fight off infections.
Difficulty enduring hot weather and cooling down.
Higher prevalence of skin problems.
An increased risk of diabetes.
Reduced reproductive success.
What Can I do to prevent obesity or help with weight loss?
Start with their food. Make sure you are feeding the correct portion size of a high quality food and incorporate treats into their daily allowance. Don’t leave food out - once they have eaten remove their bowl. Cat’s especially will eat out of boredom. Make them work for their food - use toys that you fill with treats so they eat more slowly and enjoy the ‘hunt’ for their food. Add more pet-safe fruit and vegetables to their meals or use these as their treats.
Exercise is, of course, essential to their physique. Indoor cats can easily suffer from weight problems as it’s harder for them to naturally get the exercise that outdoor cats get so you should spend time playing with them to ensure they are moving about enough. Dogs need regular exercise so arrange for a dog walker if you are leaving them for extended periods of time. Play time is also a great opportunity to exercise your dog (see Toys & Games For Boredom).