Pet obesity and healthy weight loss
Pet obesity is a real thing. Pet parents often think that a few extra kilos are no big deal. Fat and healthy, right?
Risks of pet obesity
Pet obesity (excess weight) can reduce your pet’s life expectancy, increases risk of diabetes, kidney and heart disease, osteoarthritis, urinary bladder stones, as well as certain types of cancers. Moreover, excess weight in older pets already suffering from bone diseases like arthritis tends to make them feel even more uncomfortable. On the other hand, obesity can be an indicator of diseases like hypothyroidism. It is therefore advisable to have your overweight pet evaluated by a veterinarian before deciding on a diet plan.
How do I know if my pet is overweight?
First, you need to recognise excess weight as a problem. Pet parents almost always feel that a fatter pet looks healthier than a normal-sized pet. So, if you are unsure of what a healthy weight looks like, there are a few measurements you can take at home rather easily, for example:
VCA Animal Hospital suggests: “If you hold your hand palm down and feel your knuckles with the flats of the fingers on the opposite hand, this is how your dog’s ribs should feel just behind the shoulder blades.”
If you still feel unsure, have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian who will determine your pet’s ideal body weight based on their age and breed type. Your veterinarian will also show you how to assess your pet’s body condition by, for example, feeling certain parts of the body. Remember, certain breeds are heavier bodied than others, so your pet’s ideal weight and overall body composition is unique to them.
Steps you can take to start a healthy weight loss plan
If your vet has determined that your pet is overweight, he or she will suggest a meal and possibly also an exercise plan. Here are a few extra tips:
- Don’t simply reduce food intake. Your pet needs a certain amount of nutrients for optimal health. Choose a good food brand that also supports weight loss, such as Royal Canin Weight Care, Iams Indoor Weight and Hairball, Eukanuba Weight Control for Small and Medium Breeds or Vets Choice Light.
- Prevent obesity or maintain a healthy weight by feeding your dog or cat a lifestyle or breed appropriate food. Royal Canin, Nutribyte, Eukanuba, Vets Choice, Iams and many other pet food brands offer specific, tailored nutrition for life stages and certain breeds. Follow the feeding guide! Feeding more or less should only be done under the advice and supervision of a veterinarian.
- If your pet is otherwise healthy, start an exercise plan that includes walking and some play. Gradually build up to walking longer distances.
- Limit treats, especially in the first few weeks of the weight loss plan. This is hard! We know. Don’t give in to begging eyes. Instead, give your pet a few healthy, low calorie treats in a toy that dispenses only 1 or 2 during play.
- Set a goal and evaluate your pet’s progress. Your pet should lose weight in a healthy manner. So, if your pet is dropping weight too fast (or not at all), speak with your veterinarian.
A healthy pet is a happy pet!