The importance of keeping your pet a healthy weight

cute dog asks to eat With winter finally finishing up, there is always a general consensus that the population always carries a few extra kilos come the end of the season, and in 2005, researchers from the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney found this to be true of our pets also. They found that out of the 2661 dogs that they studied, 33.5% were overweight and 76% were obese! So why are our pets obese? What are we doing to cause this? And more to the point, what can we do to stop it?

So what do we already know about pet obesity? Surprisingly the most important thing to remember is the human-animal bond between pets and their owners and eagerness to spoil their precious pooches. This is can sometimes be referred to as ‘killing them with kindness’. Animals living inside, with smaller backyards, busy lifestyles often missing regular walks then there are the daily reward treats for good behaviour and those ‘just because’ when those big brown eyes become too irresistible. All of the treats and reduced exercise equate to gaining extra kilos and extra pressure on your pets organs, bones and joints whilst also creating or exacerbating a multitude of diseases, such as arthritis, hypertension, respiratory problems and certain heart conditions.

irving-stray-kitten With the warmer months upon us – now has never been a better time for us to be active with your pets. Longer sunlight hours and approaching school holidays, why not enjoy a lovely stroll around your local park with your dog after work? Or get the whole family involved in making a safe and fun outdoor enclosure for your cat? (It’s a family activity and your cat will love exploring all the nooks and crannies you’ve made for it!).

Being overweight is generally caused by an imbalance of calories consumed vs calories expended. More simply put, eating more food than can ever possibly be burnt off. With pets, we also need to be aware of the caloric content of human foods that we are treating or training them with. A singular piece of cheddar cheese to a dog is the equivalent calorie content is equivalent to one and half hamburgers to a human, and a cup of whole milk to a cat is equivalent to almost three hamburgers – not to mention, cats can be lactose intolerant.
So how do we counteract this obesity epidemic that we are inflicting on our fur-kids? How do we provide them with the best nutrition for their lifestyle whilst still providing them with treats to enhance their lives?

There’s an age old saying: ‘Human food for humans, animal food for animals.’ We should primarily be feeding our cats and dogs food made chiefly for their species, such as Hills, Royal Canin and other premium dog and cat food brands (always ask your veterinarian if you are unsure what type of food is best suited to your pet). If you wish to give your fur-baby a treat, make it a once a week treat, or a healthy option and be knowledgeable of what size is appropriate for your pet. As always, your veterinarian can advise of pet friendly treats that are appropriate for your fur-baby and the recommended daily dietary requirements.

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