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Help overweight dogs and cats to trim down

GILL BROWNE, of Alexander Veterinary Centre, Barrow

GILL BROWNE, of Alexander Veterinary Centre, Barrow

Do you need expert advice about your pet? GILL BROWNE, of Alexander Veterinary Centre, Barrow, gives tips on how to help keep your pet healthy

HAVE you eaten too much over Christmas? Have you made a new year’s resolution to lose weight in 2014?

A recent article in a national newspaper reported that half of Britons will be obese by 2050.

It is unfortunately the same for many of our patients at the clinic, with more than 30 per cent of dogs and cats being overweight or obese. Obesity is an excess of body fat which is caused by eating too much or not exercising enough.

Several factors can predispose our pets to becoming obese. Certain breeds of dogs have a higher risk of gaining weight, e.g. the Labrador.

Increasing age and neutered animals are more at risk. Overweight owners tend to have overweight pets – a good reason to start Weight Watchers together.

Just as with people obesity can cause serious health problems in our pets, such as:
Heart and respiratory problems – Obesity can affect heart function and blood pressure, especially in our older patients, while owners of elderly Yorkies may have experienced the nasty “goose honking” cough of the collapsing windpipe where being overweight is an important risk factor.

Diabetes – We are seeing many more cases of type 2 diabetes in overweight cats (similar to people) which requires twice daily injections of insulin. But the good news is that with the correct diet and weight loss, some of these patients may no longer require insulin.

Joint problems – Our overweight dogs are more likely to suffer joint injuries while arthritis is far worse in our overweight cats and dogs, but will often markedly improve with weight loss, often reducing the amount of medication required. The good news is that we can treat obesity and better still prevent it.

Look at your dog or cat. You should be able to feel the outline of your pet’s ribs without excess fat covering it and also be able to see and feel your pet’s waist and it should be obvious when viewed from above.

Your pet’s tummy should be tucked up when viewed from the side. Annual weight checks at your vets when having their boosters will alert you if a problem is developing.

Dietary therapy is the main cornerstone of weight management. Prescription diets recommended by your vet are formulated for weight reduction.

Using a smaller feeding bowl, measuring the recommended amount of food accurately on weighing scales and using part of the daily prescription diet ration as “treats” are all in the control of the owner.

Everyone has to be involved to ensure no one is “giving in” to the begging. I vividly remember one very overweight beagle who lived in a hotel and was constantly being fed treats from all the guests. Eventually we put a little collar around his neck with the message “do not feed me”.

Exercise is important but obviously has to be tailored to individual patients. Overweight indoor cats can be helped with more play activity and be aware that a cat constantly requiring attention does not always mean “I need feeding”.

So if you think your pet is overweight, visit your vet for a health check and, if necessary, a weight reduction programme. It is essential to keep attending for regular weight checks to ensure the programme is working. But remember, by keeping your pet’s weight correct you can help them live a longer and healthier life.

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