Weight Management in Pets
Around 78% of veterinary professionals in the UK have seen an increase in pet obesity in the last 2 years. Our Registered Vet Nurse, Rachael, shares her experience of obesity in practice and gives some advice for owners worried about their pet’s weight.
Image from Veterinary Voices Facebook Group
Sadly not, if this were the case only about 2 in 10 of the patients I see would be overweight and this shows that there’s a big disparity between how owner’s see their pet’s weight and how it is assessed medically. I’ve even been told by a worried client that they thought their dog was underweight when he was closer to being overweight!
That’s quite surprising, how do you tell if a pet is overweight?
I look at 3 key points on their body: ribs, waist, tummy. A pet at ideal weight should have a nipped in waist which creates an hour-glass shape from above, a tucked-up tummy and the ribs should be easy to feel with light pressure. If any of these things aren’t true for your pet, they could be overweight. Even for stocky or broad-shouldered breeds they should never be straight from shoulder to hip, there should always be a clear waist and tucked tummy.
Image from Veterinary Voices Facebook Group
So, what if they are a little chunky? They seem happy, surely this is fine.
We all love to treat our furry family members, however the real dangers of obesity in pets exist more in what we can’t see. Obese animals are more at risk of developing diabetes and issues with the heart, lungs and immune system among other things. Even in the short term, overweight pets often have less energy and may develop arthritis and other issues with mobility. Some of these conditions are irreversible and could be avoided if their weight is maintained properly from the outset. So, you can see how easy it is for a seemingly happy, chunky pet to have more going on than you realise.
Image from Veterinary Voice Facebook Group
What would you recommend feeding a pet that needs to lose weight?
The most effective thing you can feed is a complete diet intended for weight loss and maintenance. The brand we offer in practice is specially formulated to help your pet feel fuller for longer and help combat other issues caused by obesity. The problem with reducing the amount of their current food below the recommended amount, or mixing different brands and types together, is you risk disrupting the key nutrient balance as commercial diets are not designed to be fed in this way. In my experience, pets who seems to lose weight the most effectively are the ones who are on fed on a consistent, good quality diet.
We know what to we should be feeding, now how much should we be giving them?
My golden rule is to weigh out the food and stick to that amount each day. You can weigh out the amount you need and put this in a cup, you can then mark the level of kibble and fill the cup to this line every day.
Every pet is completely different, some are more active than others and their metabolisms vary between individuals. The general rule of thumb is to feed for their ideal body weight and not their current body weight, but my goal is to get pets losing weight at a rate which is safe for them. It’s so important to discuss both client and pet’s needs to come up with a specific diet plan for each pet. I love to hear when a pet is making good progress and feeling so much better for it.
What are your top tips for any owners wanting their pet to lose weight?
Firstly, be patient! Weight loss can be a long process and usually slows down once your pet is getting closer to their ideal weight. If this starts to happen don’t be discouraged, it may be that the diet plan needs adjusting.
Secondly, be strong and consistent! Your pet has learnt that they just have to “ask” and you’ll give them something extra. If you are feeding them less, it’s natural for them to try this trick even more. Begging behaviour usually reduces after the first two weeks of weight loss.
Most importantly, remember the reason you want your pet to lose weight and keep this in mind throughout the process. Whether you want to improve their life expectancy or help them enjoy their walks again, keeping them at the ideal weight will have huge benefits for your pet’s health and the quality time you get to spend with them.
Rachael runs weight management clinics from Blackwater Vets, if you would like to find out more or have a chat, please contact us.
2 Mill Road, West Mersea
Did you know? ..Blackwater Vets is one of only just a few veterinary practices in the Colchester region that hold cat friendly clinic status?