Let’s talk about the elephant in the room!

Winter time is here – that time of the year where we all seem to add a bit of extra food or treats to our beloved pooch’s bowls to ‘help keep them warm at night’! But have you had a close look at your furry friend – do they seem to be carrying around a little extra baggage? Do they seem to struggle with their breathing after walking around? Is their arthritis playing up more than normal? Or, have you noticed that their ribs can’t be seen when you look at them from afar? Obesity is a problem both young and old pets can face, especially if we are overfeeding or not feeding the best type of food. It can reduce your pet’s life span by an average of two years! Obesity in cats and dogs also increases the risk for many diseases. 

These diseases include:

  • Arthritis and joint issues
  • Diabetes
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Heart problems
  • Surgery complications
  • Anaesthesia complications
  • Constipation
  • High blood pressure
  • Heatstroke

How do I know if my pet is overweight?

A lot of owners are unaware their animal may be suffering from obesity. This is due to the misconception of what the ideal body shape should actually look like, and believe that each breed has their own ‘specific’ weight range; meaning that they are only concerned with what the scales say. Many people feel as though their dog is underweight when they have a waist and abdomen tuck, however this is not the case. If we look at their undomesticated relatives such as the wild dog or dingo we can get a good indication of what our pet’s ideal body shape should be.

The body condition score chart below is another useful tool we can use to check if our pet’s weight is on track.

Our lovely vets and nurses are more than happy to check your pet’s weight for you. Next time you’re at the clinic, just ask!

Why is my pet overweight?

The main cause of obesity is due to overeating or poor diet and lack of exercise. Overeating can be caused by multiple factors which may include:

  • Boredom
  • anxiety issues
  • bad eating habits, or
  • competition with other animals in the household. However, some animals can seem to eat very little but gain weight very quickly. These animals may be genetically prone to weight gain or have an issue/ disease that increase the likeliness of obesity. These issues include hypothyroidism, Arthritis and joint issues. If you are noticing this, we advise you contact us at clinic to book an appointment to rule out medical reasons for your pets weight gain.

How can I prevent weight gain in my pet or help my pet to lose weight?

Obesity can be prevented by having your dog on a good quality diet and exercise program. If your dog is prone to weight gain, then it is a good idea to have them on a light or weight control food.

If your pet is currently overweight or you are unsure if they are, then come into the clinic for one of our friendly nurses to check their body condition and discuss their home routine. Before starting any weight loss we recommend having a consultation with a vet to have a full health check and blood testing to ensure there are no underlying issues or disease causing the weight gain or that may interfere with the weight loss.

The clinic offers a free weight program run by one of our veterinary nurses. The program involves an initial consultation and a discussion about your pet’s current condition, diet and exercise. The nurse will take some measurements of your pet to calculate his/her ideal weight. With the ideal weight calculated we can work out a tailored feeding and exercise program. Your pet will then return every month for a free weight check and any alterations to the program can be made as your pet progresses through the weight loss journey.

The weight loss achievement can take months to years to reach; this will vary on each individual case. On completion of the program, your pet will receive a certificate of completion, a voucher to use on your next bag of food and some free treats as a reward for you and your pets hard work.

While losing weight is a slow process, it is the best option for us to be able to provide the best quality of life for our much-loved pets. They depend on us to feed them the best quality food, in the portion best suited for them. So try to overlook the ‘puppy eyes’ you may get from your fur-kids this winter when they may want extra food in their bowl, or an extra treat snuck in after dinner. You will show them more love and care if you can hold off on giving that extra treat here or there.