How to keep your pet’s weight in check
When Captain Haddock from Swakopmund in Namibia first started on his weight-loss campaign, the hefty Labrador Retriever tipped the scales at 50kg! His owner Cynthia Magdalena-Gómez and her family loved their dog dearly and enjoyed treating him with all sorts of tasty bits. Unfortunately, this contributed to his unhealthy weight gain.
One afternoon the family found Captain Haddock unconscious and rushed him to the vet. “We are so grateful he could be resuscitated,” says Cynthia. “While we don’t know what caused his brain stroke, we did realise his excess weight wasn’t helping. The vet immediately signed him up for the Hill’s Pet Slimmer programme and a year later he is a different dog.”
With help from his dedicated family and the staff at the Swakop Veterinary Clinic, Captain Haddock shed a massive 15kg, 30% of his bodyweight. He took first place in the 2014 Hill’s Pet Slimmer of the Year competition where he received the most online votes for the top 10 finalists.
Obesity in pets
Like with many other pets, Captain Haddock’s excess weight was detrimental to his health. Pet obesity is a concern for veterinarians across the globe. Dr Guy Fyvie, veterinary affairs manager at Hill’s Pet Nutrition SA, says that not only is there an increase in the number of pets who are overweight, the levels of obesity are also higher, mirroring what is happening with us humans too. Only 12.5% of dog owners and 20% of cat owners consider their pets to be overweight, but vets say that over 50% of the patients they see actually weigh more than what is considered healthy.
“Both dogs and cats are affected by unhealthy weight gain,” says Dr Fyvie. “Overweight pets are in a constant state of inflammation which can lead directly and indirectly to conditions like osteoarthritis, cruciate ligament rupture, spinal issues, diabetes, skin conditions, cancer risk, feline bladder problems and bladder stones.”
Your may be unintentionally overfeeding your pet – here’s how:
* You free-feed your pet.
You keep your pet’s food bowl topped up all day. Animals don’t always know when enough is enough, so if the food is there your pet will probably eat it.
* Your pet scavenges for food.
These may be nuts, avocados or even mangos that fall from trees in the garden. Dogs may scavenge for food in neighbourhood dustbins if left to wander around.
* Your pet steals food.
If one pet in the family nicks food from another’s bowl, separate them at feeding time.
* Your pet gets double meals.
To avoid pets getting fed twice, make sure all family members know who is responsible for feeding the pets and on which days.
* You don’t decrease your pet’s food after sterilisation.
Sterilisation slows the metabolism and increases appetite. Sterilisation itself does not make animals fat, but overfeeding after sterilisation will lead to weight gain.
Additional information: Dr Guy Fyvie (Hill’s Pet Nutrition SA)
How pets (and people too!) gain weight
Weight gain is simple mathematics. When ‘energy in’ is higher than ‘energy out’ the balance is stored as fat. This means that if your pet consumes more kilojoules than he spends, he’ll gain weight.
There are a number of reasons why modern pets are piling on the pounds. Dr Fyvie says there seems to be a shift in perception of what size is ‘normal’. What is considered ‘normal’ today may well have been perceived as ‘fat’ in years past. Pets may also not be getting out to exercise as owners are concerned for their safety when walking their dogs. “People also unintentionally overfeed their pets,” says Dr Fyvie. “Giving love can become equated with giving excess treats and food.” (See the box ‘Do you overfeed your pets?’)