Over the past years obesity has become more common in UK pets. Just as we hear about in people, we are also facing an “obesity epidemic” in our dogs and cats. There are many health risks associated with dogs and cat that are overweight. Animals that are overweight are more prone to diabetes, urinary tract disease, pancreatitis and osteoarthritis/lameness. Obesity increases risks associated with anaesthesia. Put simply, obesity reduces the quality of an animal’s life and can shorten their life.There are many factors affecting the weight of your pet:
- Neutered pets – we recommend neutering of dogs and cats for population control and health reasons. After neutering the metabolism slows by 30% and so the food must be reduced accordingly and the weight of your pet closely monitored. Neutering is not an excuse for obesity – all Guide Dogs are neutered, and you never see a fat Guide Dog as their weight is closely monitored by the GDBA as one of the many measures ensuring the welfare of their dogs.
- Age – metabolism can slow and activity will often decrease as an animal ages
- Medications and Illnesses – some medications cause an increase in appetite (eg. Corticosteroids) and weight must be managed accordingly. Hormonal imbalances can also lead to weight gain (as well as weight loss!).
- Activity/exercise – This is particularly applicable to indoor cats who will tend to be quite sedentary creatures given the. Recent research has shown in dogs that food intake, not exercise, is the most important factor affecting weight loss. Exercise is still good to keep your pet fit and active and is great for maintaining a healthy weight.
How can you tell if your pet is overweight?
In the practice, we don’t just look at the number on the scales, but we assign your pet a Body Condition Score (BCS). We use a scale of 1-5 where 1 is too thin and 5 is grossly obese. We would love all your pets to be a 3! In summary we are looking for the ribs to be easy to feel without excess fat cover, and there should be an obvious waist when viewed from above. Click here for more information about BCSs.
Weight Clinics at Westport
We are here to help you and your pet with their weight loss journey. Here at Westport our weight clinics are run by our two Registered Veterinary Nurses (RVNs), Jacquie and Louise. We will spend time discussing feeding patterns, exercise and diet. Together we will set a target weight and then produce a plan to get your pet there. Best of all, the clinic is FREE. To arrange an appointment, just phone and ask to be booked for a weight clinic with a Veterinary Nurse.
The Weight Loss Diets
At Westport Veterinary Clinic we recommend Hill’s Metabolic Advanced Weight Solution Diet. This diet uses the science of nutrigenomics and targets fat storing genes – effectively “switching them off” – helping overweight animals to lose weight. In addition, components of this diet have been shown to optimise energy metabolism to burn fat and also to reduce the appetite and hence reduce the begging! We have seen remarkable results using this diet, even in animals that have tried to lose weight previously using other methods and failed. We are happy to discuss this diet in more detail at one of our weight clinics.
Hints and tips for keeping your pet trim.
- Stick to low fat treats or food from your pet’s daily allowance. Treats contain a lot of calories that mount up over the day.
- Weigh out your pets daily allowance for the day and leave it to one side and that is all they have to eat for that day. It is better to weigh and not use a measuring cup as each days amount could vary slightly using a cup.
- Slow down their eating. Slow feeders are very good (eg. Buster Maze). These bowls are designed to make getting the food out the bowl that little bit more difficult and it takes more time to finish a meal. Also Kong Wobblers are great as this means the dog has to use its mind to get the food out the toy and the food only comes out a couple of biscuits at a time. Or even the good classic Kong toy filled with food or even soaking biscuits and then freezing help keep them occupied for longer periods of time.
- Exercise such as swimming is very good to keep fit but also good for the overweight patient who may have sore joints as swimming puts less strain on the joints.
- Do not feed human food – Cuddles and tummy rubs are appreciated just as much, if not more so, than a biscuit. Not only does it risk weight gain, but many of our human foods are toxic to dogs.
- If your animal is neutered we recommend moving them onto a neutered diet or reducing the amount you are feeding. We know you love your pets dearly, but the way to their heart should not be through their tummy!! Keep them fit and lean and they will be around for you to love longer.