Banting, Weigh-Less or low fat food? (Part 2 of 4)

How to keep your pet’s weight in check

Risk factors for obesity

Some pets are predisposed to picking up weight. This may be related to age or breed or any medical conditions the pet may have. Dr Donald Leask, a companion animal veterinary surgeon based in Johannesburg, looks at some of these factors.

* Certain dog breeds may pick up weight more easily than others. Among others are Dachshunds, Beagles, Newfoundlands, Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Scottish Terriers and St Bernards.

* Genetic factors leading to obesity are still poorly understood, but scientists do know there is a correlation.

* Older pets are more likely to put on weight.

* Females are more likely to be obese than males – some studies reveal that over 60% of overweight dogs are female. Spayed bitches are twice as likely to be obese as unspayed bitches. Regular exercise and a controlled diet will prevent weight gain in all neutered animals.

* A sedentary lifestyle is the primary factor for obesity in pets. Obesity in cats is not linked to breed but rather inactive cats who spend most of their time lazing indoors.

* Diet and feeding habits play a role as owners overfeed the pet or do not factor in treats with the recommended daily kilojoule intake.

* Certain diseases may cause weight gain, including diseases of the pancreas (diabetes mellitus) or the adrenal glands. Some medications may lead to weight gain, so speak to your vet if you are concerned that your pet’s medication may be contributing to weight gain.

Very skinny
The animal is very thin. Ribs are easily felt under the skin and may be visible at a distance

Thin
The animal looks underweight. Ribs are visible and easily felt under the skin.

Is my pet obese?

If you think your pet may be overweight, don’t ignore the problem as it can have serious health implications for your pet. Dr Jaco Jacobs, veterinarian at Val de Grace Animal and Health Centre, says that it has been statistically proven that if your pet is 20% overweight, you can deduct about two years from his lifespan, a serious reason why podgy pets need to lose those excess pounds!

* Weigh your pet and check this against his ideal weight according to breed. If your dog is pedigree, his breed standard will include an ideal weight and height. This is a good start in determining what your pet should weigh. The Breed Finder section of The Dog Directory 2015 includes ideal weight ranges for all listed breeds

Ideal (healthy)
The animal looks healthy. Some body fat is evident over the ribs, but they can still be felt.

Chubby (overweight)
The animal looks podgy. Ribs are difficult to feel. No or very slight waist when seen from above

Obese
The animal is extremely fat. Ribs are difficult to feel and there is no waist when seen from above. Fat is evident over the chest, spine, tail base (fat pad), neck and limbs. Fat abdomen, rolls of body fat easily seen

* Check your pet’s shape. Dr Omar Mehtar of the Tygerberg Animal Hospital says: “Have a look at your pet, look down on him. He should have a distinct waistline, not as dramatic as the Victorian-era hourglass shape, but a definite dip before the hips. Rub your hands along your pet’s chest. You should feel skin, a bit of tissue and then ribs. If you have a particularly fluffy dog or cat, you must feel them – touch their skin, not just the fur. Some dogs have strange body shapes, like Bulldogs and Bull Terriers, so it is important that the pet owner gets a feel for what is a ‘normal-shaped dog’ in these cases.”

A body conditioning score can help to determine if your pet is overweight and how much he needs to lose.

 * Visit your vet for an examination. Certain diseases may also contribute to weight gain so it is important for your vet to check your pet. “The vet will weigh the pet and establish the amount of weight to be lost if required,” says Dr Jacobs. “All veterinary clinics have weight-loss programmes that can assist you in monitoring the weight loss to prevent starvation diets, diets that don’t work or even those that can cause disease when overdoing things.”

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