Did you know that obesity in humans is often defined as 20% over your ideal weight? Well this is the same for our furry friends! Multiple studies performed show that around 1/3 of pets in the UK are now considered overweight.
Unfortunately, overweight pets are not very well documented on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. The pictures we see may appear cute, but they can often be very misleading.
It has been shown that obesity can be linked to multiple diseases as well as a reduced lifespan. The more common conditions seen in cats and dogs are diabetes mellitus and osteoarthritis with a study showing that around 33% of these conditions could be eliminated if animals were kept at their ideal body weight.
Obesity is caused by excess calorie intake vs decreased calorie burn. This means to become overweight, an animal needs to regularly consume more calories than he or she is burning off. The excess calories consumed is stored as fat. There are however other factors that can also contribute to weight gain. Neutering your pet changes their hormone production levels and as a result, can alter their metabolic rate. This means your pet will have a decreased energy requirement after the operation and will therefore generally require less food. There are also certain diseases that can cause weight gain such as hypothyroidism in dogs and also certain medications such as steroids.
When your pet comes in to see a veterinary surgeon, they may talk to you about the body condition score of your pet and they may use a scale of 1-9 (as shown) to determine this. This is a scoring system used by vets and nurses to determine the physical shape of your pet. It takes into account how easily their ribs, hips and spine can be felt, along with how much abdominal fat they have. This is a much more accurate assessment of obesity than just weighing your pet on the scales. Their score can then be used by the vet or nurse to help devise a plan for your pet to help them reach their ideal weight.
Managing overweight patients and improving their overall body condition is a journey that starts at home. This can be as simple as reducing their normal food by a small amount, reducing treats and/or increasing their exercise. However, if your pet has a fair amount of weight to lose, changing their diet to a calorie controlled prescription diet may be more appropriate and effective.
Any bag of food you purchase from any distributor should have a feeding guideline on the back. This is to help you determine how much to feed your pet daily to keep their weight in the ideal range, however, some can be quite confusing. Most feeding guidelines are based on the weight of the pet but if your pet is already overweight, feeding the ‘recommended’ amount will only contribute to further weight gain. Here at Shinfield vets our nurses are happy to see your pets for free weight clinics to help manage their weight and to discuss the best food to offer.
We love our pets and as a result, we love to treat them! Whether it’s titbits from the table or treats we’ve picked up for them when we’ve been out and about shopping, we love to spoil them. The problem with treats is that they are increasing your pets’ daily calorie intake without you even really noticing. Treats have a place in every pets life and they are great for training and rewarding your pet but remember, adding treats to their diet will increase their overall daily calorie intake and therefore a reduction in calories elsewhere may be necessary to compensate. A great healthier alternative for a treat could be raw carrots or even just some extra play time!
Molly was first seen in February 2016 after her weight increased to 35kg. She had started to slow down on exercise and wasn’t enjoying her walks as much as she used to. Tracy, one of our qualified veterinary nurses started seeing Molly and after trying to reduce the amounts of her normal food with no weight loss success, it was decided that a specific weight loss diet was really the only option. Molly started her prescription diet at the beginning of April and lost an encouraging 1kg in her first month. It’s been a long journey but Molly has now lost an amazing 8kgs! This works out to be around 22.8% of her body weight. Molly has changed since losing this amazing amount of weight; she is now back to being her bouncy self and full of energy.