Ingleburn Veterinary Hospital
Unit 4, 2 Noonan Road
- 02 9829 1947
In today’s society of plenty, our pets are often constantly surrounded by, and have access to food. Unfortunately this has led to a large portion of our pets developing obesity. Obesity in animals is a state wherein they may be just 15% above ideal body weight. The best way to measure your pet’s weight is by regular weigh-ins and assessing their Body Condition Score. Ideally, your pet’s ribs should be able to be felt without much pressure, and they should be narrowest around their waist. During your consultation, your vet will assess your animal’s Body Condition Score and explain how you can estimate this yourself at home.
It is rarely understood that obesity is actually a disease state. Excessive weight can exacerbate existing illnesses as well as hasten the onset of others. Dogs and cats even moderately overweight have been shown to be greatly more predisposed to diabetes, birthing difficulties, heat intolerance, pancreatitis, heart disease and osteoarthritis. Being obese also places your pet at greater risk during any procedure requiring an anaesthetic. But most importantly, that extra weight has been proven to reduce both our pet’s quality of life and their lifespan.
Whilst genetics does play a role in an animal’s tendency to gain weight, the most common cause of obesity in animals is excessive feed intake. This may be simply feeding too great an amount (especially when treats and table scraps are included!) or feeding a diet that is exceeding your pet’s needs. Animal’s that have been desexed are also more prone to weight gain as the removal of their reproductive organs both increases their appetite and reduces their metabolism.
We need to remember that our goal is to achieve a safe weight loss as well as preserving muscle (known as Lean Body Mass). A safe weight loss is usually a 15% weight loss within 12 weeks. As in
humans, too rapid weight loss can rarely be maintained. Whilst the most effective weight loss strategies vary for every animal, it has been consistently proven that diet modification and participating in regular exercise will give the best results.
Sometimes it can be as easy as feeding a smaller amount of your pet’s current diet, provided it is both complete and balanced. These two terms are very different, and product labelling can be deceptive, so ask your vet to make sure your pet’s food is suitable.
Most often, commercially prepared “weight loss” diets are the best way to reduce your pet’s caloric intake. Foods such as Hill’s Prescription Metabolic or r/d Diets are nutritionally complete and balanced, and also provide a clear guide on exactly how much to give your pet at each meal. These diets also provide enough food for the animal to feel satisfied.
Most important to remember when selecting a food to aid in your pet’s weight loss, is to look at the amounts of fat, protein and fibre. In the ideal weight-loss diet, there is minimal fat, high protein and high fibre. Protein helps your pet feel full, and also helps them retain their muscle mass, which they’ll need for their increased exercise! Fibre also helps your pet feel full, and keeps the calories in the food low.
Whilst diet modification is crucial in helping your pet achieve their target weight, consistent exercise is also very important. This can be in the form of walks or various playtime activities – even using food-dispensing toys to make exercise rewarding!
Maintaining a regular exercise program also provides many opportunities for you to have fun with your pet, and spend more time with them.
Exercise will also help to burn calories and maintain lean muscle mass.
The most helpful thing you can do to help your pet is to cut out or at least cut down their treats. This especially includes table scraps – ideally your pet should not have any human food. If you insist on giving your animal treats, they must be kept at less than 10% of their total allowable diet volume.
There are a number of weight-loss friendly treats that you may give your pet. This may be a dry form of their low-fat food, air-popped popcorn and low fat/ low starch vegetables.
At the start of your pet’s weight loss journey, we recommend having weigh-ins every two weeks. You can come into the clinic at any time free of charge to weigh your pet, and one of our nurses will record the current weight on your animal’s file.
Once the weight loss becomes consistent and satisfactory, weigh-ins may only be needed every four weeks.