Is your cat fat, your dog a blob? Here’s how to help them

Obesity is the biggest single health threat to pets in South Africa. Though many pet owners believe a ‘little extra padding’ is not serious – fat pets are in fact at higher risk of diseases like arthritis, urinary conditions, skin conditions, heart disease and cancer. And that means thousands of Rands spent on avoidable vets’ bills.

How fat is my pet? Do these tests

Try these simple at-home tests to see if your beloved pet should visit your vet for weight control.

Place your hands on your pet’s rib cage with your thumb on the back.

> If you feel your pet’s ribs easily, your pet is probably at a normal weight.

> If you can feel some fat between the skin and ribs or if the ribs are difficult to detect, your pet is probably considered overweight.

> If you can’t feel the ribs at all, your pet may likely be obese.

In some pets, particularly cats, a large abdomen that hangs down toward the ground may indicate obesity. It’s important to have this judgment confirmed by your veterinarian; he or she can rule out other diseases that may be confused with obesity but could be heart, kidney or glandular disease.

Your pet is a probably a healthy weight if …

– You can easily feel its ribs

– It has a tucked abdomen and no sagging stomach

– You can see its waist from above

  Your pet might be overweight if …

– You have difficulty feeling its ribs

– It has a sagging stomach, and you can grab a handful of fat

– It has a broad,  fat back and no visible waist

Why a healthy weight is important

If a cat is even a kilo over its ideal weight, it’s at risk for developing serious medical conditions. When a cat is overweight or obese, it’s not a question of if it will develop a related illness, but rather how many and how soon.

Diseases associated with being fat

Some of the common disorders and conditions associated with excess weight include:

  • Type 2 diabetes: an obese cat is three times more likely to develop this disease than a normal-weight cat
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Many forms of cancer, especially intra-abdominal cancers

Veterinarians expect overweight and obese pets to live shorter lives than their fitter counterparts. Heavy pets tend to be less energetic and playful. It’s common to think cats that lie around are just lazy, making it easy to overlook the lethargy that results from being overweight or obese. If your cat doesn’t run and jump, it might be overweight.

How do I get my pet to lose weight?

  1. Starving a cat is a no-no. Overweight or obese cats must eat. Their physiology is different than people and dogs, and if they go without food for just two days in a row, they can develop a life-threatening form of liver disease known as hepatic lipidosis. Never put your cat on a diet without your veterinary team’s assistance.
  2. Join the Hill’s Pet Slimmer programme for dogs and cats at our Veterinary Clinics. Your pet will be weighed and the proper diet prescribed. Constant support is offered during his/her weightloss programme.
  3. Start them young: chat with our Vetshop staff about the ideal nutrition for your pets the moment you welcome them into your home.
  4. Avoid snacking. As tempting as it may be, sharing table scraps, biscuits or human treats with your fat pet is only going to make him/her fatter and unhealthier. Chat with our Vetshop staff about  healthy treats that won’t pile on the pounds.
  5. When introducing a new food, allow several days for the transition. By introducing the new food in small quantities mixed with its usual diet, your pet will gradually get used to the new taste until you have phased out his/her old diet altogether.
  6. If you’re suddenly feeding dry food after a lifetime of fatty tinned food, make it more appetising by warming it or even adding a splash of an omega-3 fatty acid supplement or salmon juice on top of the food. Finicky felines often prefer wet food over dry, so if your cat isn’t eating dry foods, canned diet foods may work better.
  7. Don’t ‘free feed’. Stick to set meal times.

 SHOCKING FACT: Nearly 59% of cats and 54% of dogs in the US are overweight, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP).