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Obesity and your pet

Do you know that it is possible to kill your pet with kindness? Giving your pet a lot of treats may be one way of showing you care for them but it can also make your pet gain weight slowly over time, increasing the risk of certain illnesses. Very few pet owners are aware that obesity is a condition which can impact the health, welfare and quality of life of their furry friends.

What is obesity in pets? Obesity is a nutritional disease which is defined by the accumulation of body fat. It is one of the common health problems in cats and dogs, with studies indicating that one in three canine pets can afford to shed a few kilos. What are the dangers of pet obesity?

Obesity can result in a range of conditions such as: • exercise intolerance/decreased stamina • respiratory compromise • heat intolerance • diabetes or insulin resistance • liver disease • heart disease • high blood pressure (hypertension) • cancers.

What causes obesity in pets? • Feeding your pet high-calorie food. • Lack of exercise, especially in apartment pets. • Letting your cat or dog eat at will whenever they want. • Giving your pet treats often. • Neutering can reduce your pet’s energy and activity levels, leading to weight gain. • Diseases like arthritis, insulinoma and hypothyroidism can affect your pet’s mobility and lead to weight gain. • Large and giant dog breeds are prone to obesity.

How can I check if my pet is obese? It’s easy to determine if your dog is overweight or if your cat is obese. Here are some simple ways to check your pet’s weight: • Run your fingers along the ribs of your pet. You should be able to easily feel the outline of his ribs, with no excess fat covering. • Check the waist of your pet – a well proportioned waist should be clearly visible when viewed from above. • View your pet’s belly from the side – there should be a neat tummy tuck, i.e., no hanging belly.

How can I manage or prevent pet obesity? If the body check above indicates that your pet is overweight then it’s time to change what, how and when you feed your pet. Here are some things you can do to manage or prevent pet obesity: • Increase exercise indoors and outdoors. • Feed your pet a healthy diet as a replacement for high-calorie food. • Reduce the number of treats you give your pet. • Reduce the amount of food you give your pet to prevent overfeeding. • Speak to your vet for further advice.

Find it difficult to deny extra food to a begging dog or persistent cat? Remember: if you don’t help them maintain a proper diet then it’s only a matter of time before they will fall critically ill, which can cause them pain and cost you a lot of money.

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