Fat, Fatter, Fattest!

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Leeton Veterinary Hospital
41 Yanco Avenue
NSW 2705

02 6953 3111
02 6953 2793
Bindi 6.8.14

Obesity is the number one health problem seen in domestic animals, just as it is the number one health problem in humans. Just as in humans obesity in our pets increases the risks of other diseases or health concerns such as heart disease, osteoarthritis, stroke and some types of tumors. Obesity also places increased strain on health conditions which are already present. Obesity worsens arthritis, increases the risk of cruciate ligament rupture and in short faces dog breeds it can severely worsen any respiratory issues they have.

What is obesity? In dogs and cats we consider an animal obese if it is 30% or more over its ideal body weight. Ideal body weight can be estimated from their 3 and 6 month body weights. It can also be assessed through the application of ‘Body Condition Scoring’, which is a physical examination and assessment technique to determine how much body fat the animal has. These score can be measured on a 1-5 or a 1-9 scale, with one being ‘severely underweight’ and five or nine being ‘morbidly obese’.

A small percentage of overweight and obese animals have a genetic or medical issue causing their obesity, and these should be considered and ruled out by veterinarians prior to diet alterations. Most cases of obesity in dogs and cats are related to ‘over loving’ and over feeding our pets.

Many people believe or have been told that de-sexing makes animals fat. This is only partially true. De-sexing reduces the metabolic requirement for our pets by up to 25%. So if you keep feeding your dog or cat the same amount of food after it has been de-sexed it will become fat. Following de-sexing, particularly in fully mature dogs caloric intake should be decreased by 25%, this will prevent your pet from becoming overweight. In younger dogs who may not have yet reached their mature body weight food intake should only be monitored and possibly modulated at the recommendation of your veterinarian to ensure they are still receiving appropriate nutrient intake for their continued growth.

As in many cases prevention is better (and easier) than cure. Ensure that your pet maintains a healthy body weight throughout its life. If you are unsure about your pets weight consult your veterinarian, we are happy to advise you on appropriate diet and exercise regimes. There is very little difference in weight problems between breeds of cats, however there are big differences in dog breeds. Sight hounds such as greyhounds and whippets have high base metabolic rates, so rarely become fat even with some over feeding. However other breeds such as Labradors are almost famous for being fat. So much so that many people now have a misperception about the appropriate weight of a Labrador, there are so many fat ones around that people think it is normal.

If your pet is overweight or obese there are things you can do to reduce their weight.

-          Firstly have your veterinarian rule out medical conditions such as an underactive thyroid and get appropriate treatment for any diseases

-          Increase the amount of exercise your animal gets. Cats can be taught to walk on a lead or just encouraged to play with toys. In the case of dogs longer or more vigorous walks, playing chase or fetch or going for a swim will help to increase their energy output. In animals with underlying health problems discuss appropriate exercise with your veterinarian

-          DIET. In almost all cases of obesity it is related to the amount and/or type of food being fed. Changing your pet onto a low fat, or mature food, cutting out or reducing treats and ensuring that the correct amount of food is being given. The measurements given on dog food packets are only a guide. Dogs with sedentary lifestyles and older dogs often require much less food than what is recommended on the packet. If you have any questions or problems with measuring and calculating food volumes talk to your veterinarian.

 One of the most common comments people have when they start their pet on a diet is that their dog is always hungry. It is important to differentiate between an animal that is hungry and an animal that just wants attention. Studies have shown that owners of overweight animals tend to recognize any interactions with their animals as a request for food, and it’s a rare animal who will turn down a meal even if they aren’t hungry. Setting structured meals, not leaving food out for them to graze on through the day and only giving pets their daily allowance of food will help reduce their weight. If you want to give a treat, a bone or a dentastix then make sure you take the caloric equivalent out of their daily allowance. It’s often the little things which tip dogs over the edge or prevent their ability to lose weight.

If you want to weigh your pet our scales are free for use and our vets and nurses are always available for advise regarding diet and exercise in pets. Should you have any concerns, please call our friendly team on 69533111 or come in and have a chat with us.

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