As the New Year begins, dieting is often on our minds... but how many of us actually consider whether our pets are the correct weight?
With increasing numbers of pets considered overweight, we want to help you to take control of their weight, so you can help keep your pet in good health. There are many reasons why a pet may struggle with their weight, so we are here to provide you with all the support and information you need to help make this journey easier and less stressful.
Assessing your pets weight
Weight assessments will begin with regular weight checks, allowing subtle weight changes to be detected. In many animals, significant weight change has to occur before you notice visually that your pet has lost or gained weight. We will advise you how frequently you should get your pet weighed and help you determine your pet’s ideal weight.
In addition to weight monitoring, we will also use body condition scoring to assess your pet’s condition, as weight alone is not always appropriate for determining a pet’s ideal weight. The requirements for body condition scoring is different for dogs, cats and rabbits, so we can discuss this with you in further detail when you visit with them.
As overweight pets are becoming increasingly common, the rest of this article will discuss easy weight loss tips for your pet. However, if you are worried that your pet is underweight, then one of our vets will be happy to assess your pet, check for any underlying health conditions and give you appropriate advice.
Hassle free tips for successful weight control.
There are a number of simple steps that all owners can take to help their pets maintain a healthy body weight, regardless of whether your pet is a dog, cat or rabbit;
- Feed an appropriate diet.
All pets have different nutritional requirements, so their diet should be suitable for their species. You may also need to consider age, exercise levels and any medical conditions to ensure the food is appropriate for your pet. If you are unsure of which food to choose, then one of our knowledgeable team will be happy to advise you further on a suitable diet for your pet.
- Weigh out your pet’s food daily.
For accuracy you should use weighing scales to measure your pet’s food, as even a measuring cup can give varied results. This ensures that your pet gets the correct amount of food each day. If you are unsure how much to feed them, contact us for advice, as each individual will have a different feeding requirement.
- Maintain exercise levels.
All pets should have appropriate exercise. Try to keep your pet’s daily exercise consistent and be aware that a change in their overall exercise levels may require an adjustment in the type or amount of food that they are fed.
Easy feeding changes for overweight dogs
In addition to following our general diet advice, there are also a number of tips that you can use to help food loving dogs lose weight:
Many dogs will eat their meals quickly when fed from a bowl, so to increase the time it takes dogs to eat their meals you can try scatter feeding. This simply means scattering their food on the floor or on grass, enabling them to work for their food which will help keep them satisfied. Alternatively, you could use a ‘go slow’ or maze bowl which will also slow down how quickly your dog eats.
These toys are great for occupying your pet by providing mental stimulation. Often you can use part of your pet’s daily food ration to fill the toys, which will also help reduce the amount of treats fed.
When owners add up the amount of treats, including human food, fed to their dog they are often surprised by the amount that their pet receives. By stopping these treats being fed to your dog, you can help aid their weight loss. This does not mean that you cannot treat your dog away from meal times, as you can keep part of their daily ration to one side to feed throughout the day.
- Increase your dogs exercise levels.
In addition to walking you could consider taking your dog swimming and there are many dog friendly swimming pools for you to choose from. Swimming is an enjoyable way for many dogs to exercise without putting strain on their joints, but it does require that your pet is healthy, so before starting these sessions we would recommend one of our vets assesses them.
Addressing weight issues in cats
Weight control in cats can be difficult achieve, depending on their daily routine and if there are multiple cats in the household. However, we have some helpful advice that can help any cat achieve their ideal weight.
- Increased exercise for indoor cats.
Cats who are kept indoors can easily become overweight due to them being less active and having increased opportunities to ask for food, compared to outdoor cats. So along with restricting treats and ensuring that cats are fed the correct amount, you can also look to increase your cat’s exercise. This can be achieved by using treat balls and puzzle feeders to increase activity during feeding time and you can also include play sessions throughout the day to encourage your cat to move around.
- Reducing additional meals.
While many outdoor cats get adequate exercise through hunting, some cats may enjoy visiting other households for additional meals. This can be difficult to stop but the use of ‘do not feed’ collars can be useful. If you know where your cat visits, then a friendly talk with your neighbour may enable you to discourage this extra feeding.
Owners who have more than one cat will often find that certain individuals will eat all the other cat’s food, which may result in a cat who is overweight. There is a simple solution to solve this frustrating problem with use of microchip feeders. Each feeder will only allow the cat with a matching microchip to feed from it, ensuring that each cat will get the correct amount of food.
Preventing rabbits from becoming overweight
Pet rabbits will commonly become overweight due to a combination of feeding an incorrect diet and providing insufficient exercise. However, we have a number of simple tips to prevent this from happening;
- Feed an appropriate diet.
85% of your rabbits’ diet should be made up of hay and grass, with 10% of their diet including a variety of fresh leafy greens. The remainder of the diet should include a small amount of pellets.
Reduce the amount of concentrates fed. Often rabbits are fed a diet that is too high in concentrates. Instead rabbits should be fed a pellet diet and given only and egg cup full amount twice a day. Muesli diets should be avoided as they encourage selective feeding (eating only the most unhealthy bits in most cases!).
Regardless of whether rabbits are kept indoors or outside they should be provided with constant access to a decent sized run, allowing them space to exercise. This is not only great for preventing weight gain but is also essential for helping to keep your rabbits healthy.
By following our weight control advice this will help prevent many pets from becoming overweight. However if you feel that your pet is overweight or underweight, then we would advise speaking to one of our team, so that we can assess your pets condition and help you make any necessary changes.
Sometimes weight issues can take a long time to resolve, so we are always happy to help and support you throughout your pet’s journey to ensure that they succeed in reaching their target weight