Our pets suffer from a lot of the same problems as us and some pets can struggle to maintain and manage a healthy weight. Around 44% of dogs and 40% of cats in Australia are overweight or obese. Overweight or obese pets have a shorter lifespan and are at risk of an array of health problems which require further management.
At the Ark we understand the importance of good nutrition and exercise in maintaining your pet’s health, and have expertise and access to the most recent research to help your cat or dog reach their optimal weight.
In this article:
- Is my pet overweight or obese?
- Reasons behind pet obesity
- How to help your pet reach a healthy weight
- Weight loss programs at the Ark
- Fast facts about pet obesity
- Top tips
Is my pet overweight or obese?
You can use the chart below to help you visually estimate your pet’s body weight. We’ve put together a few questions that you can use to work out if your pet is overweight or obese. If you answer ‘yes’ to any of them, it might be a good idea to bring your pet in to the Ark to see a member of our friendly and experienced veterinary team. We can help you with a weight management program tailored to your dog or cat’s needs.
- Is it difficult for you to feel your pet’s ribs?
- Does your pet have little or no waist?
- Is your pet reluctant to exercise?
- Is your pet reluctant to exercise and/or tire easily during physical activity?
- Does your pet waddle when it walks?
- Does your pet eat lots of table scraps or leftovers?
- Have you had to loosen your pet’s collar often in the past year?
Reasons behind pet obesity:
This is common in puppies when they are given too many treats as a reward for good behaviour. Food rewards can be really helpful when training our pups, but it’s also important to reward them with cuddles and positive attention to establish good habits so they won’t demand treats when they are adults.
When you do give your pup treats, it’s important that they come out of their total food for the day. This means that if you give them a handful of treats a day, make sure to subtract a bit of food from their breakfast and dinner to compensate. Keeping your puppy at a healthy weight when they are young sets them up to maintain a healthy weight into adulthood
We all know how persuasive our dogs and cats can be when it comes to asking for leftovers. Puppy dog eyes and persistent meows can be hard to resist! Even though it may seem like a way to show your pet you love them, giving them leftovers can be really detrimental to their health. Human foods often contain ingredients that (even in small amounts) that are bad for cats or dogs. Leftovers can be very caloric for your pet (since they are smaller than us they need less food overall), and even a small amount can equate to their entire daily calorie requirements! That’s like us eating double what we need to, every single day.
As your pet gets older, it’s very common for them to become overweight. This can be put down to a combination of a reduction in physical activity, combined with no decrease in feeding regime. As they age, your pet requires less food, and so it’s important to adjust their intake as they get older, as well as maintaining an appropriate level of activity for their health and continuing to monitor treats!
How to help your pet reach a healthy weight:
Check if your pet is overweight
If you think your pet is overweight please contact the Ark team. We offer FREE nurse consults to help you identify if your pet is overweight. Together we work out their ideal weight and establish a nutritional and exercise regime to get them back to their healthiest and happiest!
Get walking with your dog!
Physical activity is essential for your pet. Whether you’ve got a greyhound who seems like they can run forever, or a dachshund who can only waddle as fast as their little legs can carry them! We’re all busy, and it can be easy to skip a daily walk with your four-legged friend. Unfortunately over time this can have consequences on both their physical and mental health.
Daily walking helps manage your dog’s weight. It also releases all their pent-up energy, and mentally stimulates them as they encounter new territory, smells and socialise with their friends. Taking the time to walk with your dog help keeps you and them fit, and is a great owner-dog bonding activity
Play with your cat
Cats love to play (and release their inner tiger!) You can buy special cat toys in pet shops. Cats also love to play with anything, and normal household items (toilet rolls and paper, string and balls of crumpled paper) can be turned into a fun game! It’s a great way to bond with your cat. 5 minutes of play a few times a day can do wonders for their physical health and mental stimulation.
Weight management programs at the Ark:
We know it can be difficult to help your pet lose weight! That is why we are here to help to get started. We have created a weight loss program that is tailored to your pet to help them achieve weight loss success. We take into consideration their breed, age, and current weight to work out an ideal weight and weight loss goals. Together we work out the best diet and exercise regime to achieve them.
The first consult is free! By entering the program you have access to regular nurse check-ups, frequent tracking of your pet’s weight, a wealth of information and guidance on pet weight loss and rewards when they reach their weight loss goals.
Fast facts about pet obesity:
- Dogs are more likely to encounter weight control problems than cats
- Your pet is at a greater risk of weight problems if they are: female, neutered, kept inside or the only pet in a household
- Obesity in pets is associated with health concerns. Examples; osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and liver disease
- If your pet is overweight they are at a greater risk of surgery-related complications
- Pets become overweight when their caloric intake is greater than the energy that they expend
- 95% of pet obesity is treatable through changes in diet and exercise. Only 5% of obese pets can be treated through surgical intervention or with medication
- The bond between you and your pet can be a crucial factor determining their caloric intake and subsequent body condition
Top Tips for dog walkers
If you don’t take your dog out regularly for walks, here are some handy hints to help you get back into the swing of things:
- Vary your walks to keep it interesting for both you and your dog. Instead of taking them into the garden for a toilet break, maybe walk them around the block? Mix it up with a 20-minute vigorous walk around the neighbourhood, or through a piece of bushland where dogs are allowed to walk (on the lead, of course!). If it’s been a while since your dog has socialised, take them to the dog park so they can have some time off the lead and make some new friends
- Tie in dog walking with your own fitness regime. Exercise is an important part of staying healthy for both you and your dog, so whether you’re starting to get fit with a 10-20 minute walk, or love to go for a jog, make sure to take your dog with you so they can also enjoy the time outdoors
- Make it social! Organise to walk your dog with a friend and their dog (if they have one!). This way both you and your pooch can get social time!
- Get the kids involved! Your dog and your kids both have pent up energy to expend, so if you’re too busy, it can be great for your kids to take the dog out for a walk in the afternoon. This gets your kids outside, lets them bond with their pet as well as teaches them how to be responsible for looking after their dog