Increasing levels of body fat can predispose your pet to a variety of diseases.
There is an increased risk of diabetes, heart failure, respiratory disease, skin disease, joint disease and there is evidence to show that there is an increased risk of developing cancer.
As well as these problems, carrying too much weight will increase the risk of anaesthetics. There are some studies that have shown that a patient’s expected lifespan will be reduced by as much as two years if they are overweight.
If nothing else you will find that pet will behave as though it is far older than it is. They will slow down, be less active and less able to cope with exercise. Some pets may actually look far older.
Some conditions may predispose your pet to gaining weight. Most commonly, a condition call hypothyroidism may result in weight gain. This condition results from too little thyroid hormone being produced. This hormone controls the speed of the metabolism so if we suspect this to be present, we may run blood samples to check for this condition as if present, it will make weight loss very difficult to achieve.
So here are a few hints and tips to help your pet lose weight.
- If you feed your pet once a day try splitting that meal into two or more. Quite a few people we speak to feed their pets in this way, as we do, some pets have their main meal in the evening. Why not try spreading those calories out throughout the day so they have more opportunities to burn them off.
- When buying your usual brand of food, look out for a ‘light’ version, this may help with weight loss.
- It’s amazing how many owners never look at feeding guides! They just feed ad lib, it may be worth checking exactly how much you are feeding, also be aware you should be feeding your pet for the weight it should be, not the weight it is.
- Treats…We all feed treats, there’s no getting away from it. Why not measure your pet's daily amount of food out in the morning, then take out a small handful of food to use as treats throughout the day? If you want to use an alternative, try carrots, dogs love carrots fed raw, chop them up for ease or feed them whole and use as an alternative teeth cleaner. With cats why not have a small amount of cooked chicken (small amount = tsp).
- Some treats for cats and dogs are high in fat and calories, that’s what makes them tasty. Have a think about what you would give them in a normal day/week – it soon tots up. A scary statistic is that for a dog to have a digestive biscuit is like us having a hamburger meal between meals. Next time you are feeding you pet lots of dental chews, remember that these chews are not calorie free and you may be helping their teeth but expanding their waist line!
- Exercise. Small frequent amounts help burn fat, if you have a dog try a ‘Chucka’ or a Frisbee – less work for you but more running for the dog! Although we don’t take cats for walks, play with them in the house, a favourite toy, or silver foil to play fetch with is best, get them running up and down the stairs, or hide their food around the house so they have to hunt to find it. For cats, making them walk up and downstairs following their food dish helps enormously. It doesn’t seem like much but it is better than nothing and it may be one of the few ways of motivating your cat to exercise. With any exercise though, if your pet is overweight, please be sensible, start slowly and build up overtime.
- It sounds easy but don’t have your pet in the same room whilst your eating, it's very tempting to give in and give them a treat when big brown eyes are staring at you. We know we always say we should eat first as ‘we’ are top dog, but when dieting pets it's sometimes easier to feed them first, A) Because logically they are not hungry so should not beg for food (not always true, I know)! And B) If you have any leftovers they’ve already eaten so put them in the bin – rather than the dog.
- Don’t expect miracles! Weight loss takes time and a great deal of commitment from all the family. Remember, if you're struggling, come in and we’ll try and point you in the right direction. Prescription Diets do work, if your pet is not losing weight we can always sort out an appropriate diet to get rid of those extra pounds.
‘Prescription’ & Special Diets
There are a number of diets designed specifically to help you achieve the goal of weight loss for your cat or dog.
These diets are specifically designed so that you can keep your pet satisfied with the volume of food, but reduce the number of calories. A little like there are diet meals made for humans to make life easier and reduce the adding up of calories, these special dog and cat foods will do likewise for feeding your pet.
Once your pet’s ideal weight has been identified, a plan will be set out to gradually get to this target weight. The nurses will see your pet on a regular basis for a weigh in and assess how successful you and your pet have been. These regular checks are free and ensure that you stay on track. Some pets may need their target weight altering, or their calorie intake altering to be successful. We don’t want to embarrass you (or your pet!), simply make sure that the diet is used at the right level.
Remember that the reason for weight loss is improved health and virtually always an improved quality of life. By getting an overweight pet down to their ideal bodyweight, you will generally take a couple of years off the way they behave. They will gain energy, lose aches and pains, and have a much improved appetite for life.
Go on, give it a try. It will be worth it, we promise.