What you should know about overweight pets

Fact: half of South Africa’s pets are overweight or obese.

Fact: 9 out of 10 pet owners believe their pets are a normal weight.

October is Pet Obesity Month and because this is such a huge problem for South Africa’s pets, we’re highlighting ways you can help yours to slim down. Firstly, it’s important to understand the risks to your pet’s health if he or she is overweight. Too many pounds on a pet is as dangerous to them as it is to your health if you’re carrying extra kilos.

Here are some  important facts to know:

  1. Overweight pets are at higher risk of diabetes, heart conditions, cancer and joint ailments like arthritis.
  2. Overweight pets have a shorter life span.
  3. If your dog is just 2.2kg overweight it’s at risk of serious medical conditions.
  4. If you can’t feel your pet’s ribs, your cat or dog is definitely obese.
  5. Even cats need exercise. Playing with your cat or putting his food or favourite toy at the top of a climbing platform will encourage him/ her to move. Dogs should be walked every day.
  6. Changing your pet’s diet is often the first step towards weight loss but never do this alone. Chat with your vet or Vetshop about the best diet for your pet.
  7. Diet changes aren’t always easy. If your pet refuses to eat his/her new dry food, sprinkle it with tuna or salmon oil or a low fat gravy, or try heating it in the microwave for a few seconds to bring out the flavour.
  8. You can’t do it alone. Every member of the family must be on board when it comes to your pet’s weight loss programme so that no-one sneaks in treats.
  9. Change the way you feed. Stop free-feeding: leaving bowls of food out for your pet all day. Restrict food to meal times only and no snacking in between.
  10. Some breeds are more susceptible to weight gain than others. Begin your pet’s weight loss programme with a professional weigh in at Country Animal Clinic or EberVet Pet Clinic. Based on your pet’s body score, our vets will suggest the right programme for your pet or sign you up for the Hill’s Pet Slimmer Programme, www.petslimmer.co.za.