We talk about obesity in relation to humans and the dangerous effect it has on our lives, but our pets "winter weight" can be just as detrimental to their lives as it can to ours. Unfortunately, obesity is becoming more and more prevalent in our pets, which sparks genuine concern. It's important to know what obesity is, the effect it has on your pet's life and how to avoid your pet being diagnosed as obese.
What is obesity?
Obesity is the term used to describe pets that have a body weight that is 30% above their ideal body weight. It is also a term that is commonly used to describe pets that are overweight, an overweight pet's weight is 15% above their ideal body weight. So while terming an overweight animal as obese is incorrect, an overweight pet is just that much closer to becoming obese and developing serious health complaints. For this reason overweight and obese pets are of equal concern.
What causes pet's obesity?
Many different factors can contribute in creating an obese pet. Some are out of our control, things like breed, heredity, sex and age are all things that can make your pet prone to weight gain, however obesity can be avoided through a proper management system. The most common cause of obesity is through a pet eating more calories than they actually need, when combined with a lack of exercise your pet will store these extra calories as body fat. It is often over-eating, "snacking", poor quality or incorrect choices of food that will result in an increase of calories consumed by your pet.
What are the health risks for an overweight pet?
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Heart Disease
- Increased Blood Pressure
- Decrease in liver function
- Cruciate Ligament Disease
- Early onset of Osteoarthritis
- Increased surgical risk
- Respiratory Problems
- Reproductive Disorders
- Premature Ageing
- Decrease in quality of life
Ultimately, your pet's body is designed to hold and function at a certain weight. Too much fat in the body is going to put stress not only on your pets internal organs and how they function, but also on your pet's joints, they are not designed to hold all that extra weight. This is what will often result in a decrease in your pet's mobility, as well as damage to bones, joints and ligaments.
How do you stop your pet from becoming obese?
As always the first changes start at home, if your pet is starting to look a bit heavier it might be time to rethink what you feed them.
Treats are delicious, but are better kept as just that, treats! Some types of treats are better than others, things like brand, type and size can contribute to their overall fat content, if you're unsure of what treat is best for your pet
contact the clinic to talk to one of our staff as to what sort of treats suit your pet. However, remember that if your pet does need to lose weight, cutting down, changing or taking treats out of their diet completely will be the first step. As hard as it may be for you to resist those puppy dog eyes, your pet will thank you in the long run!
A proper diet is essential in making sure your pet maintains it's optimal weight. Most veterinary line foods are specially formulated to provide your pet with all the nutrients they need, they tailor to all life stages and specific dietary needs and problems, for this reason most of these foods can be fed to your pet as their sole source of food. If you would like to know what brand and type of food is best suited to your pet, please feel free to drop by or call the clinic and one of our friendly staff will be happy to assist you. Some people prefer to cook their pet's food themselves, this is fine to do, but can go very wrong if not done properly, either by robbing your pet of certain nutrients it needs or giving them too much of ones they don't. Please consult your veterinarian prior to mapping out your pets home cooked diet to ensure that it is tailored properly to your pets needs and health
Regular exercise for your pet is very important not only for their physical health but their mental health as well. Their age, breed and current health status can determine how much and what sort of exercise they are capable of, however, even an elderly dog can usually manage a slow walk every now and then. As a pet gets older their diet should change to reflect their level of physical exercise, the less they are moving about, the fewer the calories that should be consumed. A pet's diet might also need to be changed if their physical health changes, for example a dog that has arthritis may be less inclined to go for a run every night like he used to, so again a diet lower in calories should be implemented.
RECOGNISING THE SIGNS
Knowing when your pet is at a healthy weight or if they are starting to slip either below or above their optimal weight range is of key importance. Recognised early an overweight pet is in a much better position for weight loss, than a pet that is already categorised as clinically obese. Having said that, after recognising that your pet may be obese it is important to consult your veterinarian so that a weight loss plan can be implemented. The sooner a weight issue is addressed and managed, the better the outcome for all involved. Rather than classifying your pets weight status by simply acknowledging their body weight, we also use a body condition score to better assess what weight classification they fall into. Body Condition Scoring is on a scale of 1-5, 1 being severely underweight and 5 being clinically obese, it is measured by looking at your pet's shape, more specifically at their waist and ribs. To get an idea of your cat's body condition click here, to get an idea of your dog's body condition click here.
What can you do if your pet is already overweight?
If your vet or veterinary health care professional has already diagnosed your pet as overweight or obese, don't fret, we are always here to help. The first step would be to talk to your vet about what sort of food your pet is best switching to that is going to assist their weight loss program. Our clinic is open 7 days a week and you are always welcome to bring your pet down and weigh them on our clinic scales, just remember to ask the girls at the front to record your pets weight on file so their progress can be tracked.
If you have any concerns or questions about your pet's diet, exercise regime or progress, please do not hesitate to contact our Mornington Veterinary Clinic clinic on 5975 3811 to speak to one of our staff, they will be only too happy to assist you.