Weight-management tips for your dog or cat

Without the right nutrition and exercise, it’s easy for even the most beloved pets to gain too much weight. And when it comes to obesity in dogs and cats, there are a number of health risks that can cause serious illness, injury or even death. In fact, obesity in dogs and cats can lead to a number of medical issues including osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, liver disease and insulin resistance. As well as this around 41% of dogs and 32% of cats in Australia are either overweight or obese, with owners typically to blame as they overindulge their pets with extra food and let them down when it comes to regular exercise due to our increasingly busy lives. 

To help your pet maintain a healthy weight and live their life to the fullest, there are some helpful weight-management tips you can be aware of, as well as common risks, signs to look out for. 

Common health risks for overweight pets

If your pet has accumulated a few extra kilos lately, you might not think much of it. But without addressing their health needs – and being overweight or obese is indeed a health problem – it can lead to all sorts of long-term issues. Serious risks can include:

  • Heart disease
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Reduced stamina
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Damage to their bones, joints and ligaments
  • Diabetes
  • Poor liver function
  • Increased risk of surgical complications and anaesthetic risk

How to identify obesity in cats and dogs

Short of visiting your vet and getting a general health check-up, you can identify whether your pet is overweight or obese by inspecting their body shape. This dog condition score chart has descriptions that will help you see whether your furry friend is emaciated, thin, ideal, overweight or obese.

You should also weigh your cat or dog, and then compare it against a list of appropriate weights for your pet’s breed, age and other factors. Generally, if your dog is above their ‘ideal’ body weight then they are considered overweight.

Aside from their weight, some of the key indicators of a pet that is at an unhealthy size include:

  • Ribs and spine are not visible, even if they have short or thin fur.
  • Tail has fatty deposits.
  • When viewing your pet from above, there is no discernible waistline.
  • Abdomen appears rounded, rather than looking ‘tucked up’ when viewed from the side.
  • Square or rounded shape along their back line.

Ready to get your pet back on the road to a healthy weight? Here are some tips to manage their diet and exercise.

1. Pay attention to their eating habits

The first thing you should do is monitor how much food they are getting every day, and compare that against the recommendations provided on your pet-food instructions. If they require three-quarters of a cup of kibble and you feed them closer to a full cup, over the course of several weeks that could easily cause them to gain too much weight.

Also check that the food you are feeding them is high quality. Many of the cheaper brands are packed with highly processed fillers and nasties that don’t provide any health or energy benefit but instead cause your dog to easily gain weight.

Finally, make sure no one in your household is feeding your pet scraps of food from the table. And avoid giving them treats unless you are training them.

2. Increase their exercise routine

Just like humans, one of the best ways for your pet to shed some kilos is by moving their body with exercise. If they only usually get walked a couple of times a week, make it a daily routine until they start to look like their normal selves (just make sure they aren’t overdoing it).

If time isn’t on your side, a quick game of fetch at the park or in your backyard before work can help them burn some serious calories. Getting your dog (or dogs)  toys that help them use up lots of energy can be beneficial, such as tug-of-war toys for dogs (which can be used by one dog and their owner, or two dogs) is a good idea as these can benefit their overall health. They also incentivise bonding and quality play. 

3. Speak to your vet

If you find that extra exercise and a change in diet still aren’t getting them back to their optimal weight, it’s recommended that you speak to your vet. There may be other health factors contributing to why they are overweight, and they will be able to point you in the right direction about how to get your dog or cat back to feeling – and looking – healthy.

Love your pet, but not always with food!

You want to ensure your pet is always happy and healthy, but sometimes giving them too much love in the form of food can lead to problematic health issues. And while you can control their diet and exercise, you can’t always protect them from the unexpected. In the case of a sudden illness or injury pet insurance can assist to reduce the financial impact.

With Real Insurance you can choose from 3 levels of pet insurance for your dog or cat. Request a quote today or call us on 1300 665 965.