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Our furry companions hold a special place in our hearts, bringing endless joy and love to our lives. We cherish every tail wag and purr, and what better way to express our affection than by showering them with the occasional treat? Unfortunately, those treats, when given a bit too generously, can quickly pile up leading to pet obesity.

As part of our mission to keep pets healthy, we want to help pet owners like you to become treatwise. Together, we can embark on a journey to ensure our pets lead the healthiest and happiest lives possible, beginning with their waistlines. Here, we’ll take you through the facts of pet obesity, its warning signs, its consequences, and most importantly, how to prevent and manage it.

How common is obesity in pets?

Studies have found that up to 65% of dogs and a third of cats are overweight or obese in the UK. Carrying excess weight is often categorized as malnutrition in veterinary terms and the chief culprit behind this is typically an overindulgence in calories. It’s a growing concern among veterinarians across the UK, and we’re here to address it head-on.

What causes pet obesity?

There are many factors such as overfeeding, a sedentary lifestyle, and an imbalanced diet. They all make animal obesity a formidable adversary for owners and vets to deal with. For instance: a staggering 1.4 million dogs miss their daily walks, according to PDSA’s PAW report. While a study from Nottingham Trent University reveals that 41% of cats are strictly indoor pets. Just like humans, the equation is simple – less exercise and too much food will lead to extra pounds. But don’t fret; we’re not suggesting your furball needs to train for a marathon. They simply need the right diet tailored to their activity level.

What are the effects of obesity in animals?

The repercussions of obesity in dogs and cats are far-reaching, ultimately affecting your pet’s overall quality of life. Increased weight can lead to behavioural changes, such as excessive sleeping, a reluctance to play or exercise and, in some cases, food aggression. Physically, obesity can pave the way for problems such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and reduced immunity, putting them at greater risk of infections. Above all, a pet being overweight will reduce their life expectancy, ultimately reducing the time you have together.

What are the signs of an overweight cat?

Our feline friends can also pile on the pounds when we indulge them with treats. Spotting obesity in cats is as unique as their breeds, especially with their mysterious primordial pouch. For a cat to qualify as obese, they would need to tip the scales at over 20% of their optimal weight, while being 10-19% heavier classifies as overweight. Due to their small frame, in comparison to dogs, it doesn’t take too much to go one way or the other.

Here’s how to check your cat for signs of obesity:

  • Run your hands along their side to feel for their ribcage. Ideally, you should feel their ribs without seeing them.
  • For this bit, it’s best to have a bird’s eye view. When you look at your cat, their abdomen should tuck in, with minimal body fat around their waist. 
  • An overweight cat will display a larger abdomen with an indistinct waistline between their ribs and hips.

Top 10 pet weight management tips

If you suspect your dog or cat is carrying excess weight, here are our top 10 weight management techniques to trim their waistlines:

  1. Consult a Vet before making big changes, especially with pre-existing conditions.
  2. Reevaluate their diet. Ensure it is high in protein and low in fat, steering clear of excessive carbohydrates. Don’t be afraid to shop around and ask questions.
  3. Monitor meal frequency, matching it to their age and size, to avoid weight-related health issues.
  4. Establish a meal schedule to help your pet anticipate their food.
  5. Be treatwise. Offer pet-friendly treats but limit them to no more than 10% of their daily intake, including table scraps.
  6. Prioritize quality over quantity; limited healthy treats can go a long way, while excessive and poor quality treats are a leading cause of pet obesity.
  7. Opt for slow/puzzle feeder pet bowls to prevent overeating.
  8. Encourage daily exercise through walks, runs, swims, or indoor play.
  9. Consider alternative therapies like hydrotherapy for low-impact exercise.
  10. Don’t let your pet bully you. Some pets will try to manipulate you with sad looks or mischievous antics to get extra food. Stay strong and remember that these new habits are for their own good.

Need some inspiration for pet treats? Check out our pet-specific diet advice for cats, dogs and rabbits.

How to succeed in being treatwise

The secret to success is starting small. By gradually introducing these changes into your pet’s life, you’ll set them on a path to healthy weight loss and a better quality of life. Remember, these transformations won’t happen overnight, but with your unwavering dedication, your pets will soon reap the rewards.

Your furry friends will adapt more easily if you introduce our top 10 tips gradually, ensuring a smooth transition. If you’re ever in doubt about modifying your pet’s diet safely, don’t hesitate to schedule a free consultation with one of our veterinary professionals at Animal Trust. Together, we can ensure your pet’s path to a healthier, happier life is a walk in the park.

Learn more about dog-friendly food and cat-friendly food.

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