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  • Dr Frans Pretorius BVSc


It’s time to get back to reality after a very festive holiday season and a few of our pets, just like us, added a few extra kilograms from over eating on all the extra treats going around.

A lot of people tell me that their pets aren’t overweight or that it’s not such a big problem. The fact that half the pet population is overweight makes obesity the second most common disease in pets.

In today’s blog we’ll chat about the health risks caused by obesity, how to tell if your pet is overweight and a few tips to help your pet get back into shape.

How to tell if your pet is overweight or obese

I prefer to use a body condition score chart to check if a pet is overweight or obese. Below you

will find an example of one.

On the chart are a few visual points to look for is that a pet with an ideal body weight will always have a tucked-up tummy when looking from the side and a bit of a waist when looking from above. When you pass your hands over the ribs you should be able to feel each individual rib but you don’t want to see the ribs, otherwise your pet is too thin.

Cats should never have that “cute” fat pad underneath the belly. If your cat does its too fat.

Health risks to being overweight or obese

  • Heatstroke: Overweight pets cannot regulate their body temperature as efficiently as normal weight pets and are at increased risk to heat stress.

  • Overeating: When pets eat more than they should, bad things can happen such as vomiting and diarrhea.

  • Cancer: Overweight pets, like overweight people, are more susceptible to certain types of cancer.

  • Joints: The additional weight can injure a dog’s knee or cranial cruciate ligaments from the added stress. Continued stress on the joints will lead to arthritis later on in life.

  • Urinary tract infections: Pets too hefty to clean those “hard to reach areas” may be more at risk of contracting urinary tract infections.

  • Heart disease: Like humans, obesity in pets can cause high blood pressure among other issues. Obesity also complicates chronic heart failure.

  • Back problems: Some dog breeds such as Dachshunds and Basset Hounds are prone to slip discs or intervertebral disc disease, and added weight increases their chances contracting it.

  • Respiratory problems: Excess weight places stress on the lungs and can complicate conditions such as Collapsing Trachea

Tips to get your pet back in shape

Change your pet’s food – Your pet gained weight by consuming more calories than they burned. Simply decreasing the normal food will leave your pet feeling hungry leading to scavenging and eating garbage food they’re not supposed to. Ask us about a diet ideal for your pet, it might be a bit more expensive than the regular food but it will only be for a couple of months.

Exercise - Increase the number of calories burned per day by increasing the activity.

  1. Ball games and fetching are good for young healthy dogs, keep in mind that obese dogs need to take things slow in the beginning, we don’t want to cause injury.

  2. Exercise during the cool times of the day, overweight pets are at increased risk of heat stress.

  3. Swimming or hydrotherapy is the best type of exercise for obese pets with joint problems.

  4. Laser-games or a feather toy on a string are good exercises for cats. Only a couple of minutes a day is enough for a cat and great bonding.

Clients often ask me how much exercise is enough and the answer depends from pet to pet. Start slow in obese and older pets. If you notice any stiffness or lameness the next day you probably overdid it and need to cut back.

Mealtimes and feeding separate – The biggest objection I get from clients is that the pet eats the other pet’s food and that they cannot feed them separately. Stick to mealtimes! Feed twice a day, after 30 minutes take away any left-over food to prevent the fatty from getting to it. For multi-cat households place the thin cat’s food on high shelves where they can reach it (the fat cats don’t like working for their food) or place the thin cat’s food in a box that has a hole in it just big enough for the thin cat to get through.

Join a support group – Sounds funny? But we will support you and your pet during the weight loss period, and it’s for FREE! The best results are seen with regular weight checks and we will do this for free.

I recommend checking the weight every 2 weeks where we will take measurements and adjust the food intake accordingly. Some clients just give up too quickly thinking that their pet isn’t making any progress whereas in fact things were going well. We also offer great incentives and loyalty programs to help you along the way.

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