A guide to managing your pet’s weight

Obesity in pets is a common problem that can affect both cats and dogs. Like humans, our pets need a combination of a balanced diet and the right amount of exercise to stay healthy and mobile.

Managing your pet’s weight can be tricky as it’s tempting to feed them tasty treats or scraps from the dinner table. It’s often hard to resist puppy dog eyes but maintaining a healthy weight for your pet is important to ensure they lead a happy and healthy life.

According to the 2018 PDSA PAWS Report, 5.7 million pets in the UK are fed treats every day, with 50% of veterinary professionals predicting that pet obesity will have the biggest health and welfare implications in ten years’ time. Despite this, 80% of dog owners and 74% of cat owners stated that their pet was an ideal weight.

There are a number of reasons why your pet may put on unwanted weight, which include:

  • Over-feeding – it is important to regulate your pet’s food to avoid weight gain.
  • Lack of exercise – most pets need daily exercise to ensure they maintain a healthy weight.
  • Medical conditions – joint problems such as arthritis can lead to pets gaining weight when they are eating the same amount of food but not exercising as much due to the pain and lack of mobility.

What a healthy pet should look like

As their owner, it’s key to understand what a healthy pet should look like. For dogs, ribs should be easily felt and may/may not be seen with a minimum layer of overlaying fat. A clear waistline should be easily seen.

For cats, you should be able to see the waste behind the ribs, ribs can still be felt but with a slight fat covering. There will be a slight paunch of fat on the abdomen. There are common signs that your pet may be overweight which include: trouble breathing, unable to groom themselves, no definition, trouble getting around and constipation. Speak to your vet if your pet’s weight is a cause for concern.

Finding that balance of a good diet and the right exercise for your pet can be tricky. To help them to lead a healthier life, here are some positive changes you can make:

Diet

Simply feeding your pet less food could help to reduce their calorie intake, or you could feed them pet food that is low in fat, low in carbohydrates and high in protein. If you are unsure what the best food is for your pet, your vet will be able to offer advice on a sufficient diet for your pet’s age and health needs.

Measure their food

To ensure you don’t overfeed them, measuring their food could help to reduce their calories. Don’t leave food out all day for them to graze as this encourages your pet to eat more. Feed them small portions at set times.

Limit treats

Although it may be tempting to give pets the odd little treat, any that they have should be included in their daily calorie allowance or reduced altogether. Also prevent other members of the family from sneaking treats and food from dinner plates to your pet.

Regular exercise

Keeping your pet active is just as important as a nutritional diet. Exercise also improves muscle tone, increases metabolism and helps to reduce boredom in your dog or cat. Your vet will be able to advise the right amount of exercise your pet should be doing depending on their age and breed.

Regular vet visits

Regular vet visits will help to monitor your pet’s weight and your vet will be able to advise on how much weight they need to lose or in some pets gain weight. Be sure to speak to your vet before you start any new food or exercise routine for your pet.

Multiple pet homes

If you have more than one pet be sure to feed them separately to prevent one eating the others food. Especially if you have both cats and dogs.

Leave human food out of reach

Don’t feed your pet any food that is meant for humans. Leave any human food out of reach as it is not only too calorific for your pet, it could also lead to digestion problems and cause your pet to be sick.

Don’t put your pet on a crash diet

Reducing your pet’s food and upping their exercise should be enough to help reduce any unwanted weight. Don’t put your pet on a crash diet or starve them as this could prevent them from getting essential nutrients.