Just like humans, pets can suffer if they are overweight or obese. Pet obesity can lead to a number of health issues like arthritis so it's important to keep your pet's weight in check. Read on for our guide on pet obesity and how to reduce it so you can help your pets live long and healthy lives.
Obese pets typically have a lower quality of life too – and can die younger than those with healthy weights. A recent study by the University of Liverpool and published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine showed how overweight dogs could lose over 2 years lifespan. That’s why it’s so important to know the facts.
The extent of the problem
In the UK alone, it’s estimated that 40% of dogs and 53% of cats are overweight or obese, which is only set to get worse. Pet obesity is on the rise in the UK. 81% of vets and nurses report seeing an increase in the number of overweight animals. PDSA recently published their 2018 animal well-being report, and it has some shocking statistics:
- 33% of dog owners walk their dog just once a day
- 45% of dogs are only getting up to 30 minutes of exercise when they are walked
- 1% of dogs are never walked at all ?
- 65% of cat owners don’t know their pet’s current weight
- Just 19% of owners described their cat as overweight or obese
Overweight animals are less energetic, less willing to play and generally get less enjoyment out of life. Whether it’s due to a lack of exercise or being uninformed when it comes to portion sizes, there are lots of drivers for pet obesity.
Quite often, pet obesity is simply caused by a lack of knowledge, rather than intentional actions. One of the main issues when it comes to pet obesity is the lack of awareness surrounding the problem. Many of us don’t know what to look out for and our pets could be suffering unknowingly.
Identifying the problem
It can be difficult to recognise if your pet is overweight, particularly if it happens slowly or if they have always been overweight. Of course, the best way to check is to take them to the vet and get them properly weighed.
There are some home tricks you can try first, however, to judge if a trip to the vet is necessary. PDSA have a series of images to help you determine if your pet is a healthy weight. Ranging from very thin to obese, you can check which image most closely resembles your pet.
Here are some signs to look out for in both cats and dogs:
- Ribs – Overweight pets have a layer of fat covering their ribs, which makes them difficult to see or even feel.
- Back – A ‘fat pad’ will cover their back
- Tummy – Your pet’s tummy will bulge out and sag downwards, which may wobble or sway when they move
- Face, legs and neck – Obese cats and dogs can get fat pads in these areas
In contrast, underweight cats and dogs will have highly visible ribs, hipbones and backbone. There will be a complete absence of fat around these areas, with an exaggerated waistline and non-existent tummy.
Preventing pet obesity
There are lots of ways for your cat or dog to lose weight if they are obese or overweight. Food reduction, increased exercise and less treats can help. But the best way to reduce pet obesity is to work to prevent it in the first place.
Here are our top 5 ways to prevent pet obesity:
1. Plenty of exercise
There are so many benefits of regular exercise for your pets. Not only will exercise help your pet shed extra pounds, it will strengthen respiratory and circulation systems and aid digestion. It can be tricky to know exactly how much exercise you're pup is really doing, so you could try using an activity monitor such as PitPat, so you never miss a step!
Cats don’t tend to go on long walks the same way dogs will, making increasing exercise a bit trickier. Try playing interactive games with your cat, with a feather or toy mouse for instance. Keep these bonding sessions regular to keep your kitty entertained and trim.
2. Food and portion control
A lot of pet owners out there don’t know the correct portion sizes for their cats and dogs. Pets need different amounts of food during their life stages, just like we do. Puppies and kittens need more energy, protein and minerals, so food specifically tailored for this lifestage is best. Different breed sizes have different needs. Large breed puppies can take up to 24 months to mature to adulthood and need tailored nutrition to manage the growth carefully.
Some dogs, particularly, can’t regulate their intake well and will just eat everything in sight. To avoid this, it’s best to regulate meal times rather than having food available at all times.
Every complete pet food in the UK must have feeding guidelines. These are based on an assumed activity level, typically above the level of exercise the average cat or dog gets. To avoid your pet putting on weight, start with the feeding guideline closely monitoring any weight changes over the first few weeks. Adjust feeding amounts accordingly to maintain a healthy physique. If you're feeding Scrumbles, we include a guide based on various activity levels.
3. Weight monitoring
Without regular weigh-ins and body checks, your pet can very quickly become overweight without you realising. One extra pound may not seem like much for your cat or dog, but it doesn’t take much weight to push them into the overweight or obese category. That’s especially the case for smaller breeds.
Check with your vet what the recommended weight is for your pet. Keep on top of things weighing your pet regularly to make sure they stay inside the healthy range. Feeding habits change across seasons and as cats and dogs age they will be more prone to putting on weight.
4. Step away from the treat bowl
Many of us feed our pets leftovers from our own meals. According to the PDSA, 27% of pet owners surveyed said they regularly give their dog leftovers. The additional calories and decreased nutritional value of table scraps is often the biggest offender. Crucially it can lead to pancreatitis, which can be fatal.
Healthy tasty treats exist and are better than leftovers for your dog. They also prove useful in training exercises. Although you may feel good for rewarding your dog and giving them what they ‘want’, too many treats can have serious consequences.
When it comes down to it, most dogs would prefer extra attention to more treats. Spend more time with your pooch will give you both more satisfaction than a treat which is inhaled in an instant and quickly forgotten.
5. Look for diseases and get them treated
Although the majority of the weight gain in cats and dogs is caused by over-feeding and not enough exercise, there are some medical conditions that can contribute to obesity in pets. Fortunately, most of these diseases and illnesses can be treated by a vet, so it’s important to keep an eye on your pet for any changes.
An unexplained increase or decrease in appetite or weight could be a sign of something more sinister. So, be sure to get them checked out by a registered vet to keep on the safe side.
Keep your pets happy with Scrumbles
Diet plays a huge role in the health of your cat or dog. To keep them healthy, introduce a natural pet food, with no added sugar or salt. See the difference it can make.
Scrumbles stocks a selection of natural pet foods for cats and dogs, specifically tailored to suit the needs of different ages and breeds. Check out our range of cat food and dog food – and don’t forget to comment below with your own pets’ health tips and stories.