Feed less, exercise more

Obesity is the biggest health problem facing South Africa’s pets.

Yip, we’re overfeeding our pets and exercising them too little and the consequences are frightening: overweight pets have shorter lives and are at higher risk of diseases like arthritis, diabetes, urinary conditions, skin conditions, heart disease and cancer. Fat pets are less happy.

obesity is a huge pet problem

obesity is a huge pet problem

But obesity is both preventable and treatable, so why is it still such a big problem? A major reason is love. Odd as it may seem, many pet owners equate overfeeding and giving out treats with showing their pet how much they love him or her. We’re also not objective about our pets’ size. Nine out of 10 owners mistakenly think their pet’s size is ‘normal’; yet more than 50% of patients seen at veterinary clinics weigh more than is healthy.

 

 

Here’s our list of do’s and don’ts for slimmer, healthier pets:

Don’t

Make food available all of the time. So-called ‘free choice’ feeding has probably been the biggest single factor contributing to feline obesity.

Do

Feed two to four small portions daily and control the amounts fed so that over a period of time the cat does not gain weight.

Don't 'free feed'

Don’t ‘free feed’

Don’t

Overload your pet with foodie treats. Cakes, sweet biscuits and food from your table will pack on the pounds.

Do

Reward them with nutritionally-balanced, low calorie treats like Probono Light cookies and Vondi’s Coconut Oil health biscuits from Vetshops, or Hill’s metabolic treats (available at vet clinics only). Ostrich or venison chews and biltong, as well as chicken jerky (dried chicken breast) are also ideal as the fat content is minimal. ‘Treats’ shouldn’t just be edible: a walk, a game in the garden or a brush are as important to your pet as filling his tummy. It’s the attention he craves and the companionship.

Don’t

Buy pet food because it’s attractively packaged or conveniently found at the supermarket. These foods are often high in carbohydrates (flour and sugar) and preservatives and low in protein – the most important ingredient in a pet’s diet.

Ask your vet or Vetshop for healthy feeding advice

Ask your vet or Vetshop for healthy feeding advice

Do

Ask your vet or Vetshop for advice on what to feed your pet. Your pet’s nutritional needs depend on breed, size, age, amount of physical activity and environment. Pre-existing conditions like arthritis or allergies will also influence what your pet should eat.

Don’t

Believe changing his or her diet without encouraging exercise will exact weight loss miracles.

Do

Schedule regular walks or active playtime with your dog particularly they’re left alone for long periods. Encourage cats to play by providing interactive toys that simulate an escaping prey. EberVet Vetshops stock a wide range of toys, balls, leads and collars for all of your pet’s exercise needs.

Don’t

Give in to begging. It’s easy to succumb to a soft, wet nose or persistent meowing.

Do

Put your dog or cat in another room while you are at the dinner table if you can’t resist their demands.

Don’t

Believe it’s too late for your pet to slim down.

Do

Check out The Hill’s Pet Slimmer programme run by veterinary clinics. Go to www.petslimmer.co.za.