Obesity in pets is on the rise. Based on national published surveys, 32% of cats and 41% of dogs in Australia are either overweight or obese. It is the most common form of malnutrition in pets.
Obesity can lead to a reduced quality of life for our pets. It can lead to serious illnesses and potentially shorten their lifespan. As pet parents, we need to take urgent and proactive steps to keep obesity in pets from becoming a modern-day crisis.
Is Your Pet Overweight/Obese?
Assessing if your pet is overweight or obese can be a challenge. The breed and sex, especially for dogs, are some factors to consider. An animal that is 15% more than the average healthy weight is already under the ‘obese’ category.
To know for sure, you can refer to weight charts or seek assistance from your veterinarian.
What Causes Obesity in Pets?
Overeating without enough exercise is by far the most common contributing factor in pet obesity. They eat more food (energy) in their diet than they can use in their body each day.
Why do pets overeat?
Owner Overfeeding behaviour (Guilt-feeding) – Many pet parents love giving treats or a little bit more food to their furry loves; those wide puppy eyes are just too hard to resist! Many pet owners give their pets an excessive amount of food out of guilt for leaving them at home during the day or not spending enough time with them.
Stress-eating – A recent study states that just like some humans, pets overeat in response to stress, boredom, anxiety and depression.
Competition with other pets – A multi-pet household can have one pet consume more than their fair share and requirement to show dominance.
Hormonal factors – Neutered animals tend to need fewer calories. They may have reduced food requirements and change in hormone levels in their body. Pet owners fail to recognise this and continue to feed them the same amount.
Other medical conditions – Some medications and medical conditions can contribute to your pets overconsumption of food.
What are the health issues associated with obesity in pets?
Obese pets are more likely to be less active and have increased risk of a wide range of medical conditions, including:
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Skin problems
- Heat intolerance
- Exacerbation of brachycephalic syndrome
- Skeleton and joint problems
- Reproductive disorders
- Increased risk of some types of cancer
How To Help Your Pet Achieve A Healthy Weight
- Perform regular checks. Feel your pet’s back and waist. Ideally, as you run over their back and sides with light pressure, you should be able to feel both the spine and individual ribs.
- Pay attention to your pet’s behaviour. Disinterest in playing or walking may be a sign of being overweight.
- Improve your feeding practices. Have a scheduled mealtime and give them treats only when it merits it.
- Give portion-controlled, nutrition-packed meals and avoid sugary treats. You don’t have to overfeed your pets to show them you love them. Playing with them or giving them affection is often enough, and they surely love it!
- Keep them active. Regular exercise helps your pet burn calories and shed excess weight. Get your dogs to have daily walks and runs with you. Not only will it benefit your pet, but it will also be good for you too. Use some creativity with cats as getting them to exercise is generally more difficult. Engage them in ‘object play’ that mimics their natural hunting skills.
- Visit your veterinarian for regular check-ups and to help assess your pet’s body condition and recommend a weight loss program.
Obesity is a preventable condition and it’s your responsibility, as pet parents, to keep them at their most ideal body condition and weight. Make sure that your entire family is also committed to achieving success. Only then can your pet lose weight.
To find out more about taking good care of your fur buddies, read our BLOGS.
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