It is estimated that nearly 60% of our dogs and cats are overweight. Excess weight can reduce longevity and adversely affect our pets’ quality of life. Many diseases are directly or indirectly attributed to being overweight including breathing difficulties, heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes. Life is not fun when playing or grooming is difficult or impossible.
Generally we are not very good judges of weight in our pets. One study showed that among clients with dogs defined as overweight by their vet, 39% thought their dogs were at an acceptable weight. We also believe that they’re ‘happy’ or content, when in fact they’re displaying signs of depression or anxiety. A panting dog is not smiling – he’s trying to cool down. A cat that doesn’t move off the couch isn’t necessarily just ‘doing what cats do’ – he’s possibly unwilling to move because it’s uncomfortable.
Whilst some medical problems can cause weight gain and require specific treatment, weight gain is usually caused by eating too much, especially when combined with lack of exercise. We’re in control of their food, so the solution lies with us.
Putting your pet on a weight management diet can seem daunting. Trying to do it with their normal food can be problematic. You may end up having to reduce the volume of food to the point your pet is left hungry. Many will need a special weight loss food to keep them satiated and ensure they still receive the nutrition they need. This will help with behaviour challenges like begging and looking hungry. Pets do not have the emotional relationship with food as we do. Satisfying their needs can be done without food. In fact, many of these behaviours aren’t about hunger. Your pet may be just as satisfied with play time or a cuddle as a treat. Did you know that dogs develop stronger bonds with people who walk them than with those who provide food?
Just like for our own weight management, it’s neither quick nor easy. There are many issues that come up, but there are solutions. Come and talk to us about your pets weight, and together we can come up with a plan to get them back to their best.