Why weight management can make our pet live longer

Happy New Year! Are you a resolution person? New year new you? Or do you just keep living life despite the change of date? For most of us, losing the Christmas weight is often nearing the top of our priority list. Resolution maker or not, you should give serious thought to getting those extra pounds off your furry friends this new year. 

So, the real question is, does it matter if my pet is overweight? The short answer is yes. Studies have shown that dogs of a healthy weight (not overweight) live longer on average. But it isn’t just length of life that is important, it is also quality. Animals of a healthy weight have more energy and can be much more active. 

Being overweight also: 

  • Puts excessive pressure on joints, this means they are more likely to get arthritis and other joint diseases. 
  • Increases the risk of getting diabetes in cats. 
  • Means they are more at risk of getting many other diseases such as lung diseases and cancer, and may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease. 
  • Makes managing other conditions more difficult. 

Shockingly, about half of dogs and cats are overweight and nearly a third of small furries like rabbits and guinea pigs. Unfortunately most of us do not realise! Here are some quick tips so that you can check if your pet is a healthy weight: 

  • You should be able to easily feel your pet’s ribs but not see them. 
  • They should have a “waist” just behind where the ribcage ends and their tummy should tuck up. 

By looking at and feeling these areas, we can come up with what we call a body condition score. If you can’t feel your pet’s ribs very easily, they have a bit of a pot belly or you are simply not sure then bring them in for a weight check with one of our nurses. Our nurses are brilliant at making weight loss plans and helping you stick to them and see your progress so that your pet is a healthy weight. 

It can be difficult to see your pet putting on the weight over time but now is a really good opportunity to have a check and do something about it. With the help of our vets and nurses, you can help your pet get to and stay at a healthy weight for the rest of their life. 

The easiest things you can do initially are: 

1. Do not give them any human food, a complete diet dog food is everything that they will need. 

2. Cut out those high calorie treats – if you are training your dog then you can use something with fewer calories such as carrots or some of the food out of their daily amount 

3. Weigh out their food and feed them according to what the packet says. Ideally any treats should come out of this amount. 

4. More exercise – this is vital to get them to shift the pounds quicker! If they are burning more calories when they are running around this will help shift the balance. Even 10 more minutes a day would make a big difference. With cats, play is more important, ideally as much as possible but 5-10 minutes a day is a great start. 

Other things that really help are: 

5. Diet (low calorie) food – this is designed to help your pet lose weight by bulking it out with fibre. This means they still get everything that they need but with fewer calories. 

6. Food toys – these come in all shapes and sizes from puzzles to balls to lumpy bowls. This slows your pet down when eating so they are occupied with the food for longer and do not feel like they are getting any less food 

Cats are notorious for finding many places to get food. This can make weight loss very difficult! If you suspect that your cat is being fed at other houses you could try putting a collar on your cat that says do not feed or try knocking on neighbours doors (or posting in the local social media group!) to ask people not to feed your cat. 

Coming in for regular weight checks with our nurse clinics is an important step in a weight loss plan. This is because you often do not see the progress you and your pet are making. With our nurses to guide you if the weight loss slows down or to encourage you when the scales are going in the right direction. 

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