How to keep your pet’s weight under control

How to keep your pet’s weight under control is easier than you may think. However, before tackling your pet’s diet, you’ll need to tackle your own perception of what ‘overweight’ is because it’s a fact that 9 out of 10 of pet owners don’t see their pets as overweight while the reality is that more than half of South Africa’s pets are porkier than they should be.

And while 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.

So how do you know if your pet falls into this category?

How fat is my pet? 

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

How to keep your pet’s weight under control

We all like to feed our pets. It tells them we love them; it shows them we care. But what and how much we feed could be the difference between a healthy pet and a pet that has a shortened life expectancy and suffers a range painful and debilitating diseases.

  1. Always feed your pet the best quality food you can afford and check the contents of the product you’re buying. Pet foods should have a high protein content yet with some cheaper brands it is less than 4% of the food, with the bulk made up of preservatives, bulking agents and soy.
  2. Have your pet checked over by your veterinarian to rule out any diseases which may be responsible for his or her weight gain. Your vet can also assist in designing  a healthier meal plan for your porky pooch or pussy.
  3. 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.
  4. If your pet is a greedy eater, use a feeder puzzle so the dog or cat has to work harder at picking up his food. Ask an EberVet Vetshop to show you the range of puzzle feeders available for cats and dogs.
  5. Stick to the food manufacturer’s recommendations on the packaging.
  6. Exercise your pet daily. And that includes cats. Like dogs, cats need someone to play with. While you might not take your cat for a walk (your dog should be walked every day), you can play together at home. Cats love to chase things: tie a piece of string to a stick and shake it in front of your cat or roll a paper ball across the floor.
  7. If you want to treat your pet, make sure it’s a healthy treat. Treats from the table are an absolute no-no, especially sugary treats like cake and biscuits. There are a wide range of healthy, pet-friendly treats available at EberVet Vetshops like dog biscuits, cat nip, cat nibbles and ostrich chews.
  8. Fill a robust toy with Hill’s Perfect Weight stew and freeze it overnight to create a tasty popsicle. It’s not only healthy, but provides hours of fun with the added benefit of behavioural enrichment too!
  9. Freeze Perfect Weight stew into ice cubes, and use a cube as a doggy treat. This reduces the risk of the pet parent overfeeding just because the tin is open!
  10. Dogs that are prone to weight gain, such as Labradors, Dachshunds, Beagles and Bulldogs are great candidates for going straight onto Perfect Weight when they transition off puppy food.
  11. Feed at specific mealtimes, and not on demand.
  12. Do not free feed (leave food out all day). Once meal time is over, pick the food up until the next meal.

If your dog is already obese, ask your vet to recommend a weight loss programme. Your veterinary clinic will weigh your dog at regular intervals so that you can see how much weight he is losing.

Remember, how to keep your pet’s weight under control is your responsibility. As much as we think we’re doing them a favour by feeding on demand and plying them with treats, our pets need us to regulate their calorie intake in order to keep them healthy.

An overweight pet has a shorter lifespan. Help your cat or dog live longer by keeping them at a healthy weight.