Any pet who loves food would know that sometimes it’s impossible to resist the temptation to sneak them a little treat every now and then. And how could you say no when they are giving you that big goggle-eyed look and rolling over on their back and being super cute!? Giving your pets a treat is definitely not a no-no, but we should be considering what type of treat we are giving and how frequently.
Think about us humans for a second – they say we can eat all the naughty things like chocolate and pizza as long as it’s in moderation and if we count it towards our calorie intake for the day. Now we’re not saying you have to create a food diary for your pet and track all the calories they eat, but if you’re giving your pets a treat be careful not to overfeed them later on with their normal food or with extra treats!
So why is a bit of extra weight bad for my pet – they seem happy!
Great question! Our pets can be very deceiving, and even though they wag their tails or are super cuddly and seem happy on the outside, it does not always reflect how they are feeling on the inside. Overweight and obese pets can suffer from conditions including:
• Heart and lung conditions
• Reduction in immunity and therefore at risk of infections and other illnesses
• Joint conditions such arthritis
• Cardiovascular disease
• Urinary issues
• Significantly reduced life expectancy
The last point there is a bit of a scary one isn’t it. ‘Killing with kindness’ is quite a brutal and confronting saying used when talking about obesity in pets. It really is relevant though when it comes to what we feed our pets. We are fully responsible for what goes into our pets mouths (most of the time- if they’re not sneaking bad things from the bin or BBQ!), so it is super important that we take what we feed our pets seriously, and know that even though we feel great when spoiling our pets we need to consider what impact we are causing them.
Why does obesity cause these issues in my fur-baby?
Our pet’s bodies begin to store food as fat because it’s using less energy playing or moving than it’s taking in through its diet. This fat begins to penetrate organs (such as the liver) meaning they function less efficiently. Fat also begins to ‘coat’ the organs, placing countless pressure on them and reducing their ability to work properly – for example, there’s greater pressure on the arteries in an obese dog than a healthy dog, which means they’re more likely to suffer with cardiovascular disease.
As your pet is carrying around ‘extra fluff’, it becomes quite difficult for them to move; their joints begin to suffer because they’re not designed to carry excess weight. Eventually, this can result in a vicious cycle where they don’t want to exercise because it’s painful but continues to eat the same diet and therefore gains weight, reducing their desire to move.
What can I do to help my pet lose weight?
Fortunately, obesity can be reversed in most cases! It takes time and commitment, but it’ll be worth it knowing you’ll be adding the years back onto your pet’s life expectancy. You can try some or all of the following:
• Feed a tailored, vet-approved weight-loss food – Though we aim to reduce the calorie intake for your pet and want to give them a lighter diet, we still need to cater to their daily nutritional needs. Vet-approved diets have the correct and appropriate science behind them to both help move the kg’s but also provide them with a balanced diet.
• Say no to those puppy eyes/kitten purrs – Try to avoid giving extra treats on top of their normal diet- this is basically overfeeding your pet. It doesn’t mean don’t give treats at all, just compensate by reducing the amount of dry food you give them for breakfast or dinner.
• Avoid the naughty ‘human’ food – Like the above point, try not to over feed with treats that are taken from the table (or as we call them, table scraps). A lot of these can be high in fats or sugars which are not good for our pets.
• Move it, Move it, and Move it! – increase your pets exercise intake. For those who suffer from joint issues, swimming is a great alternative!
• See your Veterinarian – If you’ve been trying to get your pet to lose weight, unsuccessfully, sometimes obesity is caused by medical reasons. Your vet can rule out medical concerns and can also help point you in the right direction to get your pets’ weight on track.
• Need extra help? We have a great Weight-loss program here in clinic which is ran by our lovely nurse Teagan. She is a great support for pets’ and their parents to help get you on their weight-loss journey. Using the Hill’s Metabolic food range, and some handy tips and extra support, she can help your pet reach their optimal weight goal in a safe way (You can ask us about this any time!).
Prioritise your pets’ health by starting at the start; what goes in their mouth! Don’t feel bad if you don’t give them that extra bit of chicken, or that extra Schmacko. Know that though they don’t understand, you are doing them the world of good. Feel good knowing that you ignoring their big puppy/kitten eyes is actually giving them the best life possible by not giving them anything extra to carry around!