Obesity and Your Pet

Hey, so Easter break is over and it looks like autumn has arrived!

Do you have any chocolate in the cupboard? Well, we know not to share with your dog as it can be toxic (see this article)

And with the cooler weather and shorter days of Autumn,  it’s tempting to stay inside on the lounge and maybe catch up on a good book, but we have to remember that our pets need exercise as well as ourselves.

So grab the leash & put your wellies on – we’re taking the dog for a walk.

But it’s not just exercise; we have to moderate diets also. Dogs are opportunistic in their dietary habits so they will eat whatever is put in front of them. This comes from the “wolf instinct” to eat when they can.

A lack of exercise & increased food intake can lead to the problem of obesity, and we have heard constant messages about the health risks of obesity in our human bodies. Likewise, pets can also suffer from obesity problems.

Increase rates of arthritis and heart disease are the biggest problems that we see in pets as they put on weight. We also recognise risks of diabetes,  cancer and pancreatitis associated with high dietary fat intake and poor exercise habits.

Dogs love to exercise and regular 30 minute walk every day will do wonders for your pets waistline and see yours as well!

So how do we tell if your pet is overweight?

Rather than reading a weight range for your pet’s breed, it’s best to look at your individual pet. Plus many dogs will be crossbreeds so may not fit neatly into a breed range. Here’s how I guestimate a dog’s Body Condition Score (BCS): stand over the back and look down from above. You should be able to see an indent in front of the hips.  If your pet’s belly line continues from the chest back to the hips, than you have an overweight pet. Another technique is to look from the side and the belly should taper up towards the back legs rather than going straight through from the chest to the legs

Have a look at this chart to assess your dog’s Body Condition Score

Now we weigh your dog and now you can match the bodyweight against the body condition for your dog, not against an arbitrary breed scale.

If your pet is overweight then let’s aim for a 10-20% weight loss in the first 6-8 weeks. This is a good starting point to reduce obesity and reduce the risk of health problems for your pet. So, how do we do this?

Well, it’s simple really! We’ve already talked about increasing the exercise to 30 minute walks once or even twice a day. But now we also have to control the energy going in.

Dogs are fine to eat once-a-day. However, breaking their regular meal into multiple small meals increases the metabolic cost of digestions which means that the SAME quantity of food now takes MORE energy to digest. So less calories make it to the waistline!

The second point is we need to feed a lower density food. This is not a lower quality food-it is less energy per gram or per kibble of dog food. You can purchase Weight Control diets or Weight Loss diets through your veterinarian or pet store. They will have recommended feeding guides on the side of the bag to aim for weight loss. Basically we are providing an increasing source of fibre in the diet as a way to reduce the calories. If you didn’t want to use a commercial food it becomes a bit more difficult but the principle is to add fibre in place of protein, carbohydrates, and fat.

Too increase fibre in the food, you can add vegetables such as carrots and beans added to the diet or the use of insoluble fibre such as Metamucil powder sprinkled over their food.

The key point is to reducing energy going in by small meals more frequently with an energy-low energy food, and increase calories going out through increased exercise and activity.

If we do this regularly you’ll see a remarkable improvement in your pet’s waistline and energy level as well is in your own waistline and energy and hey, enjoy those chocolates.

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