Pet Obesity - A Growing Issue

Here at the OSCAR helpline, we hear all too often about the issue of obesity in dogs and cats. Pet obesity is a serious condition and can take two years off the life expectancy of our pets. As recent research shows, many pet families however don't appreciate the impact of obesity.

Obesity is the development of excess fat in the body. It can happen as a result of excess energy intake (too many calories) which exceeds a dog or cats normal requirements. Obesity then develops when the food intake does not match the dog or cat’s activity patterns. Just the same for us humans, too many calories and too little excercise results in too big a waist-line!

This is exasperated often by lifestage. For example a less active senior pet will require less energy intake than a junior dog or cat.

Life Limiting

Bella

Bella from Huddersfield

Obesity is a big issue, arguably the biggest issue affecting the UK pet population. It brings with it some serious health complaints such as:

  • Shortened life span
  • Heart problems
  • Lung problems
  • Liver problems
  • Kidneys problems
  • Restricted movements
  • Arthritis

An over-weight pet may have a reduction in their quality of life too, as they are unable to exercise as easily and may have restricted movement. An obese pet may have less opportunity to have fun, as it is unable socialise with other pets and family members in and out of the home.

Recent research by the PFMA states that 77% of vets believe that obesity is on the rise, whilst 63% of pet owners believe their pet is the correct size! Pets owners can be surprised to hear that their pets are overweight. That's no surprise when only 37% of pet owners know how to check their pet's weight. The PFMA also state that 30% of owners have never checked their pet's weight!

Educating pet families what a correct body shape looks like, is just as important as managing their weight. That's why the PFMA launched their Body Condition 'Sizeometers' for dogs, cats and small animals.

Body Condition Score

Dog Sizeometer

The PFMA's Dog Sizeometer

The Pet Food Manufactures Association (PFMA) have body score condition diagrams for owners to use as a guide to their dog and cats body shape. You can follow this link to view the body score condition diagrams. When checking the body score condition on a dog or cat, ideally you should be able to feel their rib cage through the skin but the ribs should not be easily seen.

Weight Loss Plans

Weight control diets should be introduced to help with a pet's weight loss. Weight control diets often have reduced calorie, protein and fat content levels. Depending on the severity of the issue, it's important to cut out some or all treats, extra portions of pet food and human food given. Vegetables (cooked and raw) can be added to fill up the dogs if needed as these are low in calories but offer the same percieved 'reward' to in our dogs eyes.

Weight loss plans for pets include a lot of change for the owner as well as the dog. Owners have to change their way of feeding their pets, as well as introducing increased exercise to help with the weight loss. It is better for the pet to lose weight slowly than too quickly, as this can cause further health problems.

Shelley Asden

Shelley Aspden (BSc Hons MSc)

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