Sad overweight dog

Helping your dog lose weight

Sad overweight dog
Pet owners need to be strict with their dog's diet

We all want our furry family members to be happy so sometimes we spoil them with sneaky snacks or a little extra food. These seemingly innocent actions on a regular basis may contribute to our pets’ weight and obesity – which can lead to a number of serious medical issues.

A good indicator to tell if your pet is overweight is if you can’t feel their ribs or they lose their waistline. A pet with a healthy bodyweight should have an hourglass shape when looked at from above, and you should be able to feel the tops of their vertebrae when running your hand along their spine. Overweight pets can be reluctant to play and can find exercise or movement painful. Swapping those unhealthy treats for a healthy, balanced diet plus regular exercise, has been shown to give your pet a longer and happier life.

If you suspect your pet is overweight, your first step will be to visit your local Veterinarian. Once the Vet assesses your pet you will likely be given:

  • Instructions to maintain a healthy diet that include recommendations on food and portion sizes.
  • An exercise plan tailored to your pet that will provide sufficient movement and exercise for your pet to lose weight.

The importance of specialty food in weight loss

While simply decreasing the amount of food in each meal could help your pet lose weight it is not recommended. Smaller amounts of their usual food can reduce the amount of nutrients they are receiving. Instead, your Veterinarian may recommend a specially designed food to complement the weight loss program. These specialty foods are highly-digestible and high in nutrients while having reduced calories.

The importance of regular exercise

Exercising not only helps your pet lose weight but also helps the body and metabolic system to function properly, and engages the mind. You may have to start off small and slow and first with your dog’s exercise plan. Depending on how overweight they are they may tire quickly or may end up overexerting themselves and causing injury. Swimming, in particular, can be a low impact yet effective exercise if your dog is struggling with long walks.

The next step is to stick to the plan with absolute vigilance. It is up to the pet owner to make sure the diet and exercise plans are followed. Any extra food, treats or missed exercise sessions will mean that it will take even longer for your pet to be happy and healthy again.

If there are other people in the house that feed your furry family member, make sure you are all on the same page with the eating times, portions and the amount of exercise needed. There is no benefit to sticking vigilantly to the plan if someone else in the house is giving your dog treats.


dog and cat eating from bowl

Maintaining a healthy weight for your pet: your questions answered

Helping your furry family member to maintain a healthy weight not only improves their quality of life but significantly reduces the risk of serious conditions associated with obesity. To help you keep your pet on track, we’ve answered some common questions on weight and nutrition.

What's a healthy weight for my pet?

Just as in humans, a healthy weight is not the same number for each pet. There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration such as breed, age, gender and overall health. The best way to determine the ideal weight for your best is to discuss with our team.

Dog weight scale Cat weight scale

…But my pet’s always been overweight.

There are some specific factors that could make your furry family member predisposed to weight gain, and therefore maintaining a healthy weight is even more important. There are several breeds of dog that are more likely to gain weight than others, including Beagles, Pugs, Labrador Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, Scottish Terriers and Saint Bernards. Female dogs are also more likely to gain weight, and if your dog has been de-sexed they are more likely still; the frequency of obesity in de-sexed male and female dogs can be twice that of entire dogs.

For cats, some factors which may make your cat more likely to struggle with weight gain and obesity are:

  • Breed and sex
  • Aged between five and 10 years old, when their activity begins to decline
  • Fed very frequently and more than the recommended portion (or fed ad lib.)
Sad overweight dog
Pet owners need to be strict with their dog's diet

How do I maintain my pet’s weight?

Rigorously maintaining good eating practices is the most effective way to maintain your pet’s healthy weight.

  • Feed your pet at the same place, time and with the same bowl every time
  • Don’t feed them scraps
  • Don’t give in to begging
  • Swap their treats for kibble taken from their daily allowance of food
  • Weigh them once a month and have regular veterinary check-ups

How does being overweight or obese affect my pet?

When your pet is overweight or obese, it is increasingly likely to store the food it consumes as fat, rather than using it up. This happens because they are increasingly inactive and the energy your pet is expending is less than the energy it's taking in. This extra fat can begin to affect the function of specific organs – such as the liver – or ‘coats’ others, like arteries. The extra weight also puts pressure on your pet’s joints, leading to arthritis and degenerative joint disease.

What are the risks if my pet is overweight or obese?

In general, obesity can reduce your pet’s quality of life and life expectancy; it’s harder for it to play and move around, and surgical procedures or check-ups become more difficult. There are some other issues that can arise from obesity.

Diabetes

Obese pets can be more at risk of diabetes. Often, the diabetes can be reversed once any extra weight is lost (particularly in cats), as the accumulated fat which is directly responsible for a failure to regulate glucose is no longer present.

Arthritis

Obesity in pets is one of the leading causes of arthritis in cats and dogs as the excess weight can put unnecessary strain on the joints – particularly in older pets.

How do I exercise my cat?

While giving your dog exercise can be as easy as taking them for a walk, the way to exercise a cat can be less obvious.

Ensure that you have regular playtime with your cat, particularly if they live indoors. Indoor cats need, on average, a third fewer calories than outdoor cats due to their lower energy expenditure, so playing with them is a good way to increase their movement and reduce the likelihood of gaining weight.

Two minutes of playtime twice a day, gradually increasing as they get more active, is an excellent start. Give them toys they can play with by themselves, or food toys which encourage them to play with an object to get a few kibbles as a reward.

Which food is best for my overweight pet?

There are many specific types of wight management food that is designed to assist in your journey to help your furry family member lose weight. It is best to consult one of our Veterinarians on the best choice of food for you and your pet.