We know obesity is becoming a growing concern for humans, but what about our animals?
Obesity has definitely been on the rise and is quickly becoming Vets’ biggest health and welfare concern for UK pets (BVA 2018).
A PFMA study recently revealed around half of cats and dogs, and a third of rabbits to be overweight!
Studies have shown that obesity can cause serious health problems as well as making existing problems worse. This consequently reduces the length and quality of your pet’s life (RSPCA 2019; German, Woods, and Holden et al 2018).
Statistically obese dogs are living TWO YEARS LESS!
Heath conditions common with overweight and obese animals include:
- Heart disease
- Osteoarthritis and joint problems
- Respiratory distress
- High blood pressure
- Fatty liver in cats (hepatic lipidosis)
And complications such as:
- Increased anaesthetic risk
- Decreased immune function
- Problems giving birth
Becoming overweight or obese:
If we take in more calories than we burn, we gain weight as the extra is stored as fat.
It is the same for our pets.
The most common cause of obesity is, not surprisingly, overfeeding and under-exercising. Many people feel they are being kind to their pets by feeding bigger food portions and offering treats.
This unintentionally, leads to their pet’s poor health and limits their lifespan!
Human food is also given as a treat by many. It needs to be considered that one human biscuit can equate to a lot more when given to an animal due to their small body size (BVA 2018). Human foods can also be high in fat and potentially toxic (e.g. chocolate for dogs)
It is important to stick to a good quality diet and feed your pet for their recommended and ideal weight (check the quantities on the back of the packet).
Using kitchen scales is the most accurate way to measure and should be done every time. A measuring cup or ‘handfuls’ should be avoided as measurements can vary widely and a few extra kibble a day can soon amount to substantial weight gain. Any treats given should be deducted from this daily allowance of food as otherwise its additional calories.
Who’s most affected? :
A neutered individual requires fewer calories as their metabolism slows down. It is therefore important to watch their weight and how much they are eating so to ensure they stay at an optimal weight.
Young and old animals are less likely to be overweight and it is during adulthood they tend to require less energy and are therefore more prone to gaining weight.
How to check:
In order to check if your pet is obese it is a good idea to work out their ‘Body Condition Score’.
These run from 1-9 or 1-5 depending on which type is used. The smallest number indicates being severely underweight and the larger number indicates severely overweight or obese. We use the Royal Canin charts in our weight clinics: https://www.royalcaninhealthyweight.co.uk/pet-obesity but PFMA’s Size-o-meters are straightforward for using at home: https://www.pfma.org.uk/pet-size-o-meter
An animal of ideal weight:
- Ribs should be easily felt but not seen or under a thick layer of fat.
- Waist should be visible.
How to help your pet lose weight:
- Seek advice from a vet or nurse: We can advise on their ideal weight, give guidance on reducing food allowances or recommend a suitable weight loss diet.
- Avoid treats (some low calorie treats are ok in moderation)
- Using fuss or a favourite toy to reward pets instead of food
- Boost exercise – longer walks, playing with toys: PFMA recommends ‘exercise of at least 30 minutes twice daily for adult dogs, forty minutes daily for cats (particularly indoor cats) and four hours daily for rabbits – although the level of exercise required for any pet will also depend on its age, breed and health’.
If you are concerned about your pet’s weight, please speak to a member or staff today.
Our nurses run free 30min weight clinics to assess your pet and discuss how to best to help them towards a healthier life.
British Veterinary Association (BVA)., 2018. Pet obesity epidemic is top welfare concern for vets. Available from: https://www.bva.co.uk/news-campaigns-and-policy/newsroom/news-releases/pet-obesity-epidemic-is-top-welfare-concern-for-vets/, (Accessed 5th April 2019).
German A. J., Woods G. R. T., Holden S. L., Brewnnan L. And Burke C., 2018. Dangerous trends in pet obesity. Veterinary Record [online], (Accessed: 5th April 2019).
The Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA)., 2017. Vet Survey shows a rise in Dog and Cat Obesity – PFMA launches new Obesity Poster ‘Get Hands on with your Pet’ Available from: https://www.pfma.org.uk/news/vet-survey-shows-a-rise-in-dog-and-cat-obesity—, (Accessed 5th April 2019).
Royal Canin (2018)., Pet Obesity. Available from: https://www.royalcaninhealthyweight.co.uk/pet-obesity. (Accessed: 5th April 2019)
Royal Society for the Protection from Cruelty to Animals (2019)., Pet Obesity. Available from: https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/general/obesity, (Accessed: 5th April 2019).