Managing your pet's weight
Obesity is a growing problem in the UK pet population - with recent figures showing that an incredible 59% of the UK's dog population are overweight or obese, and a shocking 39% of cats are overweight or obese. We have one of the worst rates of pet obesity in the WORLD! Yet we often pride ourselves as being a nation of pet lovers....so where are we going wrong?
Often the main problem is that we fail to recognise our pet is overweight - and if we don't know our pets have a health problem then we are not going to be able to treat that problem.
This page is designed to help our pet owners determine if their pet may be overweight and to offer advice of how to start rectifying this problem
Obesity reduces your pets quality of life
For a start, being overweight can mean your pet is less able to exhibit their natural behaviours - such as running, playing, grooming themselves, jumping. This will undoubtedly have an effect on their mental wellbeing.
on top of this, obesity can result in many health problems, which can all have a negative impact on your pets quality of life.
The most commonly seen issues related to obesity are: arthritis and joint disease causing lameness and pain, breathing problems, urinary problems, diabetes, heat intolerance, poor skin and coat, higher surgical risk, increased risk of cancers.
What is obesity?
Obesity is an excess accumulation of adipose tissue, or fat.
The reason this causes an issue is due to the fact that adipose tissue is an active substance which releases chemicals called "adipokines." These chemicals have many negative effects throughout the body, such as causing inflammation, affecting immunity and suppressing insulin.
Because of these health issues resulting, obesity can be classed as a disease.
How can I tell if my pet is overweight?
The most accurate way of deciding if your pet is overweight is to find their "Body condition score" - see more details on this below. Another useful tool is to regularly weigh your pet - you are welcome to come to the surgery to weigh your pet at any time during opening hours and do not need an appointment to use the scales. Other signs that your pet may be overweight are things like they might prefer to sit or lie down more often, are lethargic or "lazy" at home, are exercise intolerant on walks and become tired easily or pant a lot, and may also be lame.
My Vet told me my pet is overweight...but it looks the same as the ones on TV/in crufts/on walks...
This is a common problem encountered by us all, owing to the fact that a SHOCKING 59% of dogs we see are overweight/obese!! This means more than half of all the dogs you see will be OVER the ideal weight, so if you're comparing your pet to animals you see then you are more than likely comparing them to another overweight pet. It is much better to use Body Condition Score to decide if your pet needs to lose weight, or ask your vet or vet nurse.
The posters demonstrate how to body condition score your pet. The IDEAL score is 4-5 out of 9.
The WSAVA also has a useful chart and video to help BCS your pet, see here:
So...my pet is overweight...but what should they weigh?
If you have worked out your pet's body condition score, and know their current body weight, you can use this table to work out their ideal bodyweight:
Click poster to enlarge
What do I do if my pet is overweight?
The 2 basic steps are:
- Eat less - lower calorie intake
- Exercise more - increased calorie consumption
Ideally you should focus on a combination of the two, but it takes much more effort to burn off only a small amount of food (for example, for an average adult eating 1 chocolate bar would require 42 mins of walking or 22mins of running to burn off the amount eaten). For this reason you should focus on changing your pets diet in the first instance - you will often find as they lose weight they will become more energetic and exercise more without you trying!
What should I feed my overweight pet?
Some owners chose to continue feeding the same food, but at a reduced quantity. In order for your pet to lose weight - you need to feed them the amount stated for their TARGET/ideal weight, not their current weight. Occasionally this is already being done, or does not work because the pet feels too hungry all the time and then starts begging/scavenging etc. For this reason there are specially formulated "weight loss" diets, with the aim of making pets feel fuller/more satisfied after eating but with a restricted calorie content. You can ask your vet or vet nurse about these different options, and where you can source them.
TOP TIPS FOR WEIGHT LOSS
- WEIGH the food!! In order to feed your pet the accurate amount required, and make slight adjustments as needed, you need to use DIGITAL SCALES to weigh the food. DO NOT rely on a measuring cup - even the same person using the same food and cup each day can have up to 28% variation in feeding amounts so it is not accurate enough. Up to 80% of people using measuring cups are feeding more than they thought...so make life easier for yourself and weigh the food!
- Use slow feeder bowls, or interactive toys to feed your pet. These have 2 benefits - they slow down the time it takes your pet to eat which increases their satisfaction levels, and also burns off more energy as they eat!
- Swap "food rewards/treats" for a game or a cuddle. Your pet will get just as much enjoyment from this if not more, and there's no added calories
- If you feel you need to give your pet a treat, or you are training them, you can use a portion of their normal daily food as this treat. Weigh out how much food your pet is allowed in a day, then split it into morning/evening/snack portions. Food given from your hand rather than out of the bowl will still be perceived as a treat by your pet even if it is their same normal food!
- If you want to feed your pet a variety of different snacks or treats instead, you MUST reduce their daily ration of feed down accordingly. Baring in mind this may result in a less well balanced diet and they might feel less full. To put it in perspective, 1 "Dentastick" would mean reducing your pets daily ration of food by 44g, 1 "Bonio" needs a reduction of 28g, and even 1 carrot needs a reduction of 16g of food.
- Some treats are fine to be given freely without reducing food portions - such as watermelon, cucumber and ice cube.