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Weight Matters

Overweight pets often experience a reduced quality of life as they are less able to enjoy fun, family activities and are often lethargic and tend to sleep more.  Studies in America have shown that dogs that are at their ideal weight can live for up to 15% longer.  For a Labrador, that’s almost an extra 2 years!

It is estimated that over 40% of dogs and 30% of cats in Australia are morbidly overweight or obese and this doesn’t even include those that are just a bit overweight.  Just like humans, pets gain weight because they don’t get enough exercise and eat too much food.  But, unlike humans, pets don’t have a lot of control over the quality of food or the amount of exercise that they have.  They rely on their owners to make those decisions for them and to understand that there are many other ways to show love than with food.

Choose a low fat premium pet food.  These are low calorie but with extra total dietary fibre so that the pet feels full for longer.  Pet foods that carry the word “light” are able to do so as they have achieved standards required by the AAFCO*.  Others that use terms such as “lite” and “weight control” have not achieved this and, although quality product, are not as low in calories.

Losing weight is exactly the same for pets as it is for humans.  Less energy has to go in for the energy that is burned.

Feed pets twice a day.  If pets are fed once, by the time they get to the evening feed they will be starving and probably scavenge for food.  Feeding twice daily helps them to feel more satisfied and reduces the blood sugar highs and lows that may affect their energy levels.

Keep to the recommended daily feeding guide recommended on the premium pet food bags.  If the recommendation is for “2 to 3 cups”, start with the smallest number and see how it goes.  It will always be possible to increase the amount if necessary.  If there are several pets, feed them separately so that the food intake can be monitored.

Cats and dogs are creatures of habit so changing their food takes some time.   Introduce the new food over 5 to 7 days starting with 10% new and 90% old and then increase the proportion until they are eating nothing but the new food.  Some dogs prefer their dry food with a little warm water added but cats won’t like this at all.

If introducing wet (canned) food, warming it slightly may help to improve its smell and feel in the mouth.  Pets tend not to like food that is chilled.  Don’t be tempted to add human food to the new diet as this is probably what caused the weight gain to begin with.

No animal should be starved whilst introducing a new food.  The old approach of just leaving the food out as the pet will eat it when it is hungry is not recommended.  The food will become affected by bacteria because it is left sitting and the pet will be missing the calories it needs to keep its energy levels up.

Dogs that are an ideal weight will have a visible “waist” and their ribs can be felt quite easily through their fur.  Dogs that are overweight will have fat around their middle area and, when they stand on their hind legs, will have a fat lump just above the point where the tail joins their body.

An obese cat will have a large abdomen and may experience difficulty grooming itself and walking.  The ribs of cats that are at a healthy weight will be able to be felt under their fur although a layer of fat should still be evident.

Drop in to any Better Pets and Gardens to view charts that will show the ideal weight for individual breeds of cats and dogs.

We all like to reward our pets but instead of a snack, why not give them lots of cuddles and praise.  Take them for a walk or play a quick game with them to really show that you love them or, the ultimate reward, give them a relaxing massage.  They will enjoy this just like anyone would!

But, where treats are used in training or as a quick reward, go for healthy, low fat options.  Pets will be just as happy if the treat is an apple and not a chocolate biscuit.

Table scraps are not suitable for pets.  Consider that just one sausage to a medium size dog is the equivalent to giving six donuts to a human!  And one small plain biscuit would be the same as a human eating a whole hamburger!  There are low-fat alternatives available at every Better Pets and Gardens store or for dogs, try a little bit of apple, green beans, carrot, rice cake or fat free wheat cracker.  Pets will still love you if they are given a healthy treat and will probably live for longer!

An overweight pet is at an increased risk for a range of clinical problems including:

Achieving and maintaining a pet’s ideal weight reduces these risks, improves their quality of life and can increase life expectancy by a significant amount.

Overweight and indoor cats often suffer from lack of exercise.  They don’t hunt, play and explore like outdoor cats.  But, exercising them is not a difficult task and makes a huge difference to their overall health.

A walk is an all-round workout that keeps a dog’s body and mind healthy but it’s important that they get to do this every day, not just at weekends.  Extra long walks at the weekend can actually do more harm than good, especially if the dog suffers from arthritis.

The ideal weight loss is 1 to 2% of body mass for dogs and 1% body mass of cats per week.  Any more than this would mean that not enough food is being provided.

Every Better Pets and Gardens store has a set of scales especially designed to weigh even the largest dog.  Bring your pet in to check its’ weight.  Our staff is trained to give advice on suitable pet foods and activities to help both cats and dogs lose weight.

Pets that are more than 10% above their ideal weight or have other health issues should be assessed by a Veterinarian before any weight loss program is started.

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