Is my pet overweight? Unfortunately my answer is often yes. Obesity is the most common nutritional disorder in cats and dogs we see. In Australia, 40% of dogs and 35% of cats are considered obese. ‘Obesity' is commonly used as a term for being overweight, however more specifically it is a condition where a pet's weight is more than 15% above ideal.
Why is being overweight a significant health concern for your pet? Overweight pets are more likely to:
Live a less active and shorter life
Be more prone to joint pain, back pain and mobility problems
Develop skin problems and have a lower resistance to infection
Be at greater risk during surgery
Be disinterested in exercise and play
Become insulin-dependant diabetics
CAUSES OF OBESITY
We have little control over some contributing factors to obesity; e.g. breed, sex, heredity, and age. However, there are others which we can control, these being over-feeding and exercise. Most obesity is caused simply because a pet eats more calories than they need. This, in combination with a lack of exercise means the excess calories are stored as body fat.
WHY PETS OVEREAT
Many owners often confuse of their pet’s food requirements with their own leading to over-feeding and feeding the wrong foods. A snack of a chicken wing in the morning for a 4 kg fox terrier is the equivalent to me eating a roast chicken for breakfast. It all adds up.
Boredom or emotional stress: This can only be a problem however if the pet has food left out to free choice eat. Not many pets will only eat what they need if more food than what they need is openly available. I am a strong advocate of giving pet's, especially dogs, meals to eat then removing anything that is left. With Cats this is often harder to achieve because many cats scream and yell if the food bowl is empty. One “trick” I often recommend for cats is to put the food bowl in the cupboard away from an overweight cat while the family is out for the day. That way the cat has got some time when free choice food is not available to snack on and you don't have to listen to their pitiful cries of feed me :)
Hormonal influence: Occasionally thyroid and cortisol abnormalities can affect weight gain.
Neutered/desexed animals have a tendency to gain weight as their metabolism is slowed down. Owners continue to overfeed and the pet does not get enough exercise to stop weight gain. However, this is not a good reason to not get your animal desexed, it just makes them cheaper to feed because they need a little less food to maintain their ideal body weight.
Competition in multi-pet households: We often witness a dominant animal which may eat more than their fair share as a way of establishing a pecking order. Again supervised meal times particularly for dogs is the best way to manage this problem.
RISKS FOR THE OVERWEIGHT PET
Susceptibility to infection
Neurological disorders and back disease
Increased surgical & anaesthetic risk
Earlier onset of joint problems e.g. arthritis
Decreased quality of life
It sounds simple but the one thing that every pet owner can do help add possibly years of happy life to their pet's time in the family is to maintain their pet at a health weight.
DOES YOUR PET HAVE A WEIGHTY PROBLEM?
If you answer ‘yes' to any of the questions below, or if you think your pet is not at its optimum body condition, you may want to talk to our veterinary staff about a weight management program and get your pet started on a healthy new life.
Overweight on not? (Y or N)
Do you have difficulty feeling your pet's ribs?
Is there little or no ‘waist'?
Do you give your pet table scraps or left over's?
Is your pet reluctant to exercise?
Does your pet seem to tire easily with activity?
Does your pet waddle when it walks?
Does your pet keep eating so long as there is food in the bowl?
Has your pet been desexed?
Have you been told your pet is overweight?
A SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM
If your pet has a weight problem, (this includes being underweight) we have the solution for you. We can offer a weight management program tailored to your pet, to help them reach and maintain their optimal body weight.
The inclusion of regulated exercise helps promote a total health focus for maximum benefit to your pet. The use of high quality veterinary diets means your pet will not miss out on any essential nutrients through out their weight management program. For more information or to make a booking, please contact us.