Pet Obesity – So what’s the issue?
Pet obesity is a pressing issue for the UK’s 24.5 million pets. It is estimated that 45% (just over 11 million) of domestic pets are overweight or clinically obese. A recent study of pet owner perception showed that 63% of pet owners believed their pet to be the correct weight, despite other views from veterinary professionals. This is not surprising as weight gain happens over a long period of time and as the owner sees their pet every day, quite often the drastic change in weight goes unnoticed.The causes and contributing factors leading to obesity are:
1. Eating too much and excessive snacking
2. Exercising too little
3. Being less active with age
4. Breed Disposition
6. Certain medical conditions
Just as with people, an overweight or obese animal has a much greater risk of developing serious and/or debilitating health conditions.Major health risks and concerns include:
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Urinary crystals/stones and blockages
- Heart Disease
- Respiratory difficulties
- High Blood Pressure
- Cruciate Ligament Disease
- Skin/coat issues
- Decreased Life Expectancy of 2.5 years on average
Our pets are part of the family, of this there is no doubt, and it’s easy to want to express affection for a much-loved pet by rewarding them with tasty treats. Recent findings show that nearly half (48%) of pet owners are treating pets more than twice a day. Over the last five years there has been a 28% increase in cat and dog owners feeding pets table leftovers. These acts of apparent kindness can put your pets at risk; treating with leftover food is a leading cause of pet weight gain (approximately 78% for dogs).
It is important to note that animals have very different metabolisms to ourselves; feeding a dog the size of a West Highland White Terrier just 1 small cube of cheese a day is the same as a human eating 1 Big Mac! Equally, feeding a 5kg cat 1 glass of milk a day is the same as a adult human eating 3 Big Macs in one sitting!
1. Don’t guess: Follow packet feeding guidelines to determine how much food your pet should be getting daily. If you are unsure, then contact the food manufacturer directly or contact your veterinary practice.
2. Remember! Guidelines are just that, quite often we find that feeding amounts and exercise regimes need tweaking from pet to pet.
3. Weigh the food: Use scales to accurately weigh out your pets daily allowance of food; you can then separate this amount into the number of meals your pet needs per day.
4. Treat responsibly: Prepared treats are best aligned to you pets needs. Please remember that a treat should be earned and the calories must be deducted from your pets overall daily allowance.
5. Don’t overfeed: Be aware of how much you are feeding your pet as a family. In a busy household, it can be beneficial to run a rota system or have a check list so your pet is not being fed the same meal twice.
6. Exercise, exercise, exercise: Make sure you are exercising your pet in accordance with its needs. Most dogs should have at least 1 hour of exercise per day; just because you have a small breed of dog, does not mean it doesn’t need to be walked.
Cats should ideally have 40 minutes of high intensity activity per day. Please remember that cats are predators, and the way to get them to play is to let them use their hunting talents. Take a laser pointer and skitter it across the floor like a bug. Get a wand toy that looks like a bird and pretend to land and take off. In the wild, a cat will only stalk prey for about three to five minutes; after that, he’ll give up and go search somewhere else. So don’t try to play longer than the genetic capacity of the cat. When heâ€™s beginning to lose interest, change to another game or let him rest.
Pet rabbits need 4 hours of exercise per day, therefore rabbits that live outside require constant access to a large run in order to run, jump and play.
7. Monitor your pets weight: This will help you nip any worrying weight gain in the bud. You can weigh your pet at home, if they are small enough to fit on human scales, or if your morning walk brings you and your dog past your veterinary surgery, just nip in and use the scales in reception.Iâ€™ve got an overweight pet, HELP!
Here at Milton Keynes Veterinary Group, we offer free of charge nutrition clinics which are run by two of our RVN’s; Louise and Laura both have keen interests in pet nutrition and consult every Wednesday and Friday at our Walnut Tree Hospital site.
In the clinics the patient typically gets a full physical exam; they get weighed, measured and their Body Condition Score is assessed. A full history is also taken from the owner at the first appointment so a better understanding of the pet and owners’ lifestyle can be gained and an individual feeding and exercise plan that fits in with that lifestyle can be designed. The patients are typically seen back at the clinic every 4-6 weeks until they reach their healthy weight.
The nurses cater for most animals and in clinic we routinely see dogs, cats and rabbits of various breeds, shapes and sizes and sometimes the odd guinea pig or 2.
Louise says, I enjoy the owner and pet interaction and I feel that I get to know the pets and their owners very well as we see each other monthly for at least 6 months to a year. The most rewarding aspect of the clinics is seeing a pet become healthier and happier due to reaching its target weight and knowing that they will be living a longer life in their loving home.
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