Vet Q&A: Managing weight issues in pets.
Over 50% of pets today are considered overweight or obese. We had a chat with Hill’s Pet Nutrition vet, Dr Jessica Mills to talk about how we can avoid weight issues in our pets.
What do we mean by obesity when we are talking about pets?
Obesity means that your pet is carrying 20% or more excess weight. This may sound a lot but given the size of some of our pets, it can mean as little as an extra kilo for the average cat or small terrier, or 6kg for the average Golden Retriever.
Is obesity really an issue we need to worry about, how does it affect pets?
Carrying that extra weight can increase your pet’s risk of serious health conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, bladder stones and diabetes, and it can also shorten their lifespan.
So why are so many pets overweight?
– Most pets become overweight due to too many calories in their diet, not enough exercise or a combination of both.
– This can be as simple as feeding a diet with more calories than they need such as food aimed at growing puppies or kittens.
– Or they can be feeding the right food but just too much.
– And of course, a common issue is giving too many calorie-laden treats.
Tell me a little more about treats and why they are bad for our pets?
– We all love to spoil our pets but we often overlook the calories in treats.
– Did you know that 1 small 14g piece of cheese for a cat is the caloric equivalent of you or me eating a hamburger and chips? A slice of salami for a 15kg dog is like us eating 2 chocolate chip cookies!
– Treats should not form more than 5-10% of their caloric intake.
– One simple trick is to keep a small amount of their daily kibble portion aside in a jar and use this as a treat.
How can pet owners tell if their pet is overweight?
– If you aren’t seeing a waistline (hourglass figure when you look at your pet from above) or are not able to easily feel their ribs, then it is likely they are carrying some excess weight. Your vet can also let you know if they believe your pet is overweight.
What should pet owners be feeding overweight pets?
– There are a number of options such as low calorie and high fibre diets, but to increase the chances of success, you want to work with the pet’s unique biology.
– At Hill’s, we have been studying how nutrition impacts pets’ cell function for over a decade. We learned that lean pets have different biology than overweight pets. With our unique understanding of the biology of overweight dogs, we developed breakthrough weight management foods with a blend of ingredients that helps support pets’ metabolism for healthy body weight.
– It is advisable to have very overweight pets checked by your veterinarian to ensure that there are no other health issues before starting them on a weight management diet.
How do pet owners work out how much food to feed?
– The feeding guide on the pack is a good place to start. But be aware that this is only a guide, you may need to tweak the amount fed slightly to suit your pet’s individual needs.
– You should feed your pet based on their ideal body weight, not their current weight.
– Weighing the food is the most accurate way to measure it. Alternatively, use the cup provided by the manufacturer of the food. A little trick is to cut the cup at the level you need to feed (for example half a cup) so that you can’t overfill it.
Can pet owners feed less of their normal food instead? For example, halve their portion size?
– Whilst this seems like an easy solution, the pet will likely feel hungry and start begging. As a pet owner myself, I know how hard it is to not give in and feed more when your pet is asking for food and this is one of the most common reasons diets can fail.
What else can pet owners do to help their dog lose weight?
– In addition to the right food, increase their exercise.
– Add a couple of extra walks a week or increase the length of your daily walk. You could also change the route to incorporate a hill so they are exercising more intensely.
Any tips for cat owners out there
– We may not take our cats for walks but there are games that we can play with them to get them moving. For example, shine a laser on the floor and walls and the brightness and movement will encourage your pet to chase it.
– One other tip for both cat and dog owners is to look at using puzzle feeders to encourage them to slow their eating and work for their meal. Or you can simply divide the meal amongst a few bowls around the house so they have to walk about to get their full meal.
I have heard of the Food Shelter Love program that Hill’s runs, what is it all about?
–The Food Shelter Love program supports local organisations such as Friends with Tales initiative which helps people from all around New Zealand find a shelter pet who needs a forever home.
You can purchase Hill’s Pet Nutrition Vet Diet Formulas from our online store to support your pet’s health and Friends With Tales. Click here.