National Pet Obesity Day is Wednesday 14th October, a day to raise awareness of the dangers of pet obesity and highlight ways to help our pets lose weight and stay healthy. The Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA) have been conducting pet obesity reports since 2009. The latest report in 2019 was based on speaking with 227 vets and 8000 UK households to give a detailed picture of the current pet obesity situation.
The latest 2019 PFMA report reveals some startling statistics;
- Vets think 51% of dogs, 44% of cats and 29% of rabbits are overweight or obese.
- 74% of vets feel pet obesity has increased over the last 5 years.
- 46% of pet owners judge their pet’s weight just by looking at them.
- 12% of pet owners have looked at a body condition chart.
- Only 2% of pet owners had actually weighed their pet themselves.
- Worryingly 67% of pet owners admitted they are not worried about pet obesity.
How do you know if your pet is overweight?
Whilst a large proportion of pet owners assess their pet’s weight by just looking at them, this is not the best or most accurate way. A combination of regular weight checks and comparing with a body condition score is ideal. Vets will usually assess your pet’s body condition score when you visit although pet owners can also do this at home. The body condition scoring system ranges from 1 to 5;
1 – Very thin – your pet’s ribs are very visible to the eye with no layer of fat visible over the ribs or other bony prominences.
2 – Underweight – your pet’s ribs are visible without having to touch your pet as there is very little fat covering the ribs.
3 – Ideal – you should be able to feel your pet’s ribs easily with a thin layer of fat covering them and other bony prominences.
4 – Overweight – Your pet’s ribs are hidden under a thick layer of fat and are difficult to feel.
5 – Obese – Your pet’s ribs are very difficult to find under a thick layer of fat and other areas that should feel bony like knees are hidden under a layer of fat.
What are the dangers of pet obesity?
Just as with humans, pet obesity can be very dangerous and lead to a whole host of health problems including but not limited to the following;
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Respiratory problems due to the pressure of the extra fat on the lungs and airways
- Joint problems such as arthritis and cruciate ligament injuries
- Back problems
- Skin disease due to excess weight causing skin folds, which can be a source of irritation and infection
This shows our pets are predisposed to a number of very serious health conditions if they are overweight or obese. All of which can be avoided by helping them reach and maintain a healthy weight. Weight management is one of the easiest ways to keep your pet healthy.
How can I prevent my pet gaining excess weight?
As with everything in life prevention is better than cure where possible. There are several simple things you can do to help prevent your pet piling on the pounds. Start with looking at what you are feeding your pet and make sure it is suitable for them. There are a wide range of pet food options out there from wet food to dry food, veterinary diets and many raw food diets. It may take a bit of trial and error to establish what is best for your pet. Your pet may not like the taste of a particular food Our cats Sammy and Luna tend to lick the gravy from wet food and leave the rest, they definitely prefer a dry food.
Check the feeding guide on the food you choose. This is extremely important, it will state the amount of food you should be feeding per day to maintain a healthy weight. A lot of pet foods have measuring cups but if not pop in to your local pet shop or search online and you should be able to find something suitable. Alternatively, you could weigh your pets food. Don’t forget to divide the daily food allowance by the number of meals you give your pet to prevent over feeding. We all love to give our pets edible treats and that’s fine, providing you only treat every now and again. Also, please be very careful as some treats that us humans enjoy are very dangerous for our pets. Find out why chocolate is dangerous for pets in another of our blogs.
Plenty of exercise will also help your pet maintain a healthy weight. Taking your dog for regular walks every day and longer walks at the weekend will not only help keep their weight down but will also help keep their heart, lungs and joints nice and healthy. Ensuring your cats have access to a safe enclosed garden or larger area if they go out is very important so they can get regular exercise. You can also give them active toys to play with.
Tips for helping your pet lose weight
In the event that your pet is already overweight, it’s important to reduce their weight as quickly as you can. This can be easier said than done with those puppy dog eyes and constant meows though! Start by looking at changing to a lower calorie food with more fibre, this will likely be more successful than just feeding them less of their regular food. Ask your vet to recommend a good food for your pet to help them trim down. Restricting treats and not feeding your pet food scraps will really help with their weight loss. We know that if we cut down on treats and snacks we reduce our calorie intake by quite a lot.
Increase your pet’s daily exercise. This could take the form of extra walks, or making each walk a bit longer Build this up slowly to avoid your pet overdoing it and getting an injury. For cats, schedule in extra play time with them. Throw balls for them to catch and chase them around the house, encourage them to jump up for toys. Extra exercise will help your pet loose the excess weight and improve their health.