It’s not only humans that can suffer from weight gain – obesity in pets is rife and is not only unhealthy but can be fatal. We asked Rosie, the Vet Nurse at Goddards, Fulham, for her top tips on pet food and diet for dogs.
THE WARNING SIGNS
Routinely do body condition scores on your pet. Feel his ribs and spine – You should be able to just feel them with gentle pressure. If you can’t feel them, then your pet is probably carrying too much weight. If they are very obvious, your pet could be underweight. Also check his waist – he should have an obvious dip in and up where his abdomen meets his legs. If he doesn’t he might be a little overweight. Learn what’s normal for your pet and you will be in a better position to judge if he is gaining or losing weight.
If your pet gets treats (lucky him!) then make sure you reduce his normal diet at breakfast or dinner to balance his calorie intake.
Only give your dog treats when he has genuinely done something good for you, like obeying a command or being well-behaved when you have guests over. That way, he will learn good behaviours more quickly and you aren’t giving him unnecessary calories for the sake of it.
Stick to healthy treats as much as possible. Examples of low-fat goodies include carrots and apples (which taste sweet but are very low-calorie) and plain, cooked chicken or turkey breast (very low-fat and high in quality protein). Avoid high-fat treats such as hot dog, cheese (which is not good for cats and dogs anyway due to lactose), chicken skin, cuts of fat from meat and table scraps.
Eating more slowly can help your pet feel fuller for longer and promote better nutrient absorption, reducing hunger pangs and whining at you for more food! For cats and small dogs try feeding out of an egg box – He will have to problem-solve and use his paws to dig out the treats, which also encourages natural foraging behaviour, and the egg box can be recycled when it becomes dirty or damaged. For larger dogs, specially-designed slow-feeding bowls can slow down eating time.
MAKE A PLAN
Stick to the feeding guidelines given to you on pet food. Generally if you are trying to help your pet lose weight, feed for the weight you want him to be, not the weight he is now! Before starting any pet diet speak to your vet or vet nurse. Together you can create a feeding plan which promotes safe, long-term weight loss
A specially-designed lighter diet of pet food may be of benefit if you are watching your pet’s weight. These are generally lower in calories and fat than standard diets while still delivering a balanced, nutritious diet. Neutered animals especially have lower calorie requirements so a lighter diet could be the right choice for them.
LITTLE & OFTEN
Small, regular meals may suit your pet better than one or two larger meals. This will keep his metabolism boosted, make him feel fuller for longer and spread his energy intake throughout the day. If this isn’t suitable for your lifestyle, a larger breakfast and a smaller dinner encourages energy to be burnt off during the day and not stored as fat overnight.
Be aware that dogs and cats have a much lower calorie requirement than humans. A 4kg cat for example, needs around 310 calories, while a 15kg dog needs around 840. Remember that a small snack for us (such as a piece of sausage) accounts for a much larger percentage of your pet’s daily calorie requirement.
A healthy diet should be complimented by an effective exercise program. Check out PetsPyjamas’ pet exercise tips here! (LINK TO BARRY’S EXERCISE FEATURE)
ASK YOUR VET
If you are concerned about your pet’s weight please speak to your vet or vet nurse for advice. Pet obesity is sadly a very common disease but it is treatable and preventable. Similarly, underweight pets are also at risk of health problems. Your vet or vet nurse will be able to help you create a diet and exercise plan together to make sure your pet stays as happy and healthy as possible!