One of the most common nutritional problems seen in pets is obesity. Your pet may be just slightly overweight, or significantly so. In either case, the approach is similar and the following handout should help your pet to gain back some health and vitality.
It is estimated that 30% of pets are overweight in Australia, a statistic that closely mimics the human situation. Unfortunately for your pet, they have no choice in the matter, and often are just eating what they are given. Just like children, pets will often not make healthy food choices and will often go for the most palatable, high calorie option when offered.
Being overweight puts your pet at risk of heart and respiratory problems, diabetes and joint and ligament injuries. Overweight dogs are more at risk of cruciate ligament rupture, which requires costly knee surgery. As pets age, carrying extra weight and placing additional stress on joints, can lead to chronic pain from arthritis.
IS MY PET OVERWEIGHT?
If you look from above, dogs should have a nice waist, just behind the ribs the abdomen should curve inwards, rather than a ‘barrel’ shape. From the side, the abdomen should be tucked up, not in line with the ribs. The ribs should be easily felt, but not seen. For cats, most of the fat is often gathered around the abdomen, leading to a significant wobble when walking, and a pendulous abdomen.
- Feed twice daily for dogs, as digesting food uses extra energy. Bear in mind that adult dogs generally don’t need to be fed twice daily and will overeat when fed this way. But it can be used to our advantage for weight loss.
- Do not leave food out, feed only what is eaten during the first 10 minutes and remove the rest.
- Consider the use of treat balls that make meal-times more fun, stretch the food out a little bit and help to increase exercise. The buster cube is one option, or you can put the food inside a drink bottle with the lid removed.
- Do not respond to ‘begging’ by giving food. This only reinforces the behaviour and makes it harder for you to resist. Make it a rule never to give food from the table or food when your dog is begging. Sometimes the food and attention then become so closely intertwined that it isn’t clear if your dog wants food or cuddles.
- Cut out high fat treats such as schmackos, and carefully read ingredient labels. Bear in mind that most pet foods list ‘minimum’ fat contents, rather than the absolute amount, giving very little idea of the actual contents of the treat. Most treats are the equivalents of mars bars for dogs. Usually if it is a treat and your pet would eat it over any other food, it is pretty high in calories.
- Consider adding steamed sweet potato to your dog’s food. It is slightly sweet, but lower in calories than most dry foods. You can then reduce the amount of dry food your dog is eating, but encourage him to feel full by filling up on fibre.
- Chopped raw carrot is a tasty, low calorie treat for many dogs. For fussier dogs, get a ziplock bag and put some tiny pieces of liver treats in there with the chopped carrot pieces. Give this a shake and those carrot pieces become nicely seasoned with some tasty treats.
- For many dogs their regular dry food can be used as treats. Most dogs eat so quickly, they barely taste their food, so food doesn’t need to be that exciting. Dogs have 10x fewer taste buds than humans (which is why they will happily eat possum poo), so they don’t need the variety of foods that we prefer.
- Consider buying a bag of frozen mixed veggies (minus the onion and potato) and mix this in with your dog’s food. You can microwave the veggies, or simply serve it up frozen.
10. Consider using Hills Metabolic, it helps your dog feel full, speeds up metabolism and is super healthy. If your dog doesn’t lose weight on this food, it would be pretty unusual.