Obesity is the most common nutritional disorder in companion animals. It is defined as an excessive accumulation of fat in the body which eventually leads to adverse effects on health and can reduce your pet’s life span. According to 2013 figures from Animal Health Alliance (Australia), 41 per cent of dogs and 32 per cent of cats were overweight or obese.

Obesity can lead to:

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Elevated cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations
  • Cardiovascular disease (lung and heart issues)
  • Reduced tolerance to exercise and heat
  • Joint and mobility problems
  • Increased risks if your pet undergoes surgery or anaesthesia
  • Reduced quality of life and potentially reduced lifespan
  • Possible increased risk for certain forms of cancer
  • Urinary disorders
  • Reproductive disorders
  • Dermatological diseases

The cause
Obesity is usually the result of either excessive dietary intake or inadequate energy utilization which causes a state of positive energy balance. Numerous factors may predispose an individual to obesity including genetics, the amount of physical activity, and the energy content of the diet.

Very rarely, certain hormone diseases can also lead to obesity.

It is important that your pet has a healthy, active lifestyle and is fed strictly controlled portions to prevent your pet from becoming overweight and obese.

Is your pet overweight?
Ideally, if your pet is a healthy weight you should be able to feel their ribs through a small fat layer.

If you cannot feel your pet’s ribs or if they have lost their waist line, they are overweight.

If your pet is overweight
Weight loss is vital to the overall health of your overweight or obese pet.

Below are three important factors to guide you in helping your pet lose weight:

1. Behaviour modification
Avoid feeding your pet high-calorie table scraps and frequent feeding of dog biscuits and treats. It may be surprising to know that bones have a very high calorie content due to the amount of fat they contain, especially in the marrow.

Do not encourage or allow begging during meal times. This can be achieved by keeping your pet out of the kitchen during meal time preparation and gradually decreasing the amount of treats given. You can also substitute treats with attention, cuddles and play instead.

Ensuring your pet is fed at the same time each day develops a good routine and can also aid in reducing or stopping the begging behaviour.

2. Exercise regime
Increased activity contributes to energy use that is necessary for weight loss.

Always start with slow and low intensity of exercise especially if your pet is used to a sedentary lifestyle.

As a general guide, 10 minute walks every day or every second day is a good start which should eventually lead to increased time and frequency.

Walking, running, playing fetch and other games are recommended forms of exercise, though ensure to start slowly.

For cats, its harder to establish an exercise routine unless you have trained them to go for a walk whilst wearing a harness. An effective and interactive way for cats to play and exercise is to use a laser pointer or other cat friendly toys for them to chase around the lounge room.

3. Diet management
The aim of dietary management is a restricted calorie diet.

At CCVH, we can tailor a weight loss program specific to your pet to help them reach their optimal weight.

Firstly, we weigh your pet and set a goal for weight loss.

Then we calculate your pet’s caloric requirement for maintenance of body weight.

For weight loss, we recommend a diet that provides 30-40 per cent less calories than whats needed for maintenance of body weight.

We do not recommend severely restricting calories as this can cause a rebound in your pet’s weight due to the effects of severe calorie restriction on the body’s metabolic rate.

It is important to feed a well-balanced diet such as commercial pet foods that are formulated to contain adequate amounts of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. You can obtain prescription commercial diets that are aimed at weight loss. These contain fewer calories as they are lower in fat and higher in digestible fibre and carbohydrates.

Alternatively, you may trial reducing the amount of food in your pet’s current diet. Reduce the amounts provided in each meal by one-third, and supplement with low calorie fibrous foods such as pumpkin or carrot.

If you feel the need to feed the odd treat, most dogs and cats like pieces of carrot or broccoli stalks which are low in calories.

If you have any concerns about your pet’s weight, please don’t hesitate to contact the clinic on 59962329. We are happy for you to bring your pet for a weigh in at any time and our friendly vets and nurses are here to help tailor a weight loss program specific to your pet.

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