(ORDO NEWS) — Do you love giving your cat or dog an extra treat? As much as they like it, it’s not always the healthiest move.
Just like people, pets can suffer from weight problems. And it’s becoming more of a problem as plump companion animals are more common than ever.
In a recent survey of veterinarians, 73% said obesity is “one of the most common diseases” they face, with half of pet dogs and 44% of cats being overweight.
This is a worrying trend. While we sometimes think that a fat pet is cute, the reality is that even a small amount of excess body weight can cause significant health problems for your pet, from diabetes to cardiorespiratory problems (such as difficulty breathing while sleeping) and even increasing the chances of getting heat. hit.
Obesity – which is diagnosed when an animal is 15 to 20 percent over ideal body weight – has also been linked to an increase in diseases such as osteoarthritis and some forms of cancer.
Of course, we all want our pets to live as long as possible. So here are a few ways to keep your dog or cat in top shape.
1. Keep them active
Many dogs don’t have the opportunity to exercise regularly – sometimes because of bad weather, or maybe because of behavioral problems, such as anxiety when meeting other dogs or people.
And while outdoor cats tend to keep fit and active, indoor cats can have at least 5 percent higher body fat levels than outdoor cats and are much more likely to to obesity.
Exercise is the key to maintaining a healthy body weight as well as losing weight. Try to exercise your dog at least once a day, and ideally more often. Make sure that the duration and type of exercise is appropriate for the age and ability of the dog, and gradually increase the load.
Dogs enjoy “smell work” or “trick training” that can be done in the living room. In addition, there are plenty of cat toys for your pet to burn calories while playing.
You can also make meal times more active with scattered feedings – where you scatter food on the ground (after making sure it’s clean and safe) – or puzzle feeders that encourage your dog to work on food and treats.
Hydrotherapy, which involves swimming or walking in a pool or on a water treadmill, can be a great option for gentle, unstressed exercise. This is especially true for older dogs or those recovering from an injury.
Even cats can be trained to walk on a leash. But if your feline friend just doesn’t want to cooperate – or you don’t feel like risking the weather with your dog – you can try indoor or garden play to keep your activity level up.
2. Watch their diet
Some pets simply enjoy food so much that they can get a little chubby regardless of age. Or, like humans, pets can have a “middle age range” that naturally slows down with age.
In any case, a change in diet may be required to maintain a healthy body weight. Weight loss should be a gradual process, so always use the nutritional recommendations on the food package or online calorie calculators as a starting point for determining how much to feed your pet.
Try to keep a food diary every day. And don’t forget to accurately weigh your pet’s food with a scale. The paddles are very inaccurate and make overfeeding much more likely.
If your pet is overweight, or even close to obese, it is best to start your weight loss journey with a visit to the veterinarian for a complete health and body evaluation. He will also be able to determine the target body weight and timing of weight loss.
3. Be aware of other risks
Sometimes it’s just in the genes. For example, some Labrador Retrievers have a genetic mutation that predisposes them to increased “eating” behavior and weight gain. And neutered pets may have a reduced daily calorie requirement, so if their diet is not changed appropriately, they may inadvertently gain weight.
Therefore, it is important to know what weight and body shape is healthy for your cat or dog, as well as the factors that can affect this.
Trust veterinarians and other professionals to make it easier for them to have potentially sensitive conversations with you about how best to help your pet lose weight.
4. Avoid High-Calorie Treats
High-calorie foods and treats contain a lot of calories in small amounts, so it’s easy to overfeed your pet without noticing.
Fatty “human” foods, such as leftovers, can also contribute to weight gain, along with an increased risk of pancreatitis – and if you eat toxic foods, including onions and some artificial sweeteners, the situation can become even worse.
But controlling your pet’s weight doesn’t mean you can’t treat it. Go to your local pet store and look for healthy low calorie alternatives.
Or take a look in your refrigerator. Many dogs love carrots or cucumbers, especially when crushed as a training treat. Cats love some tuna or chicken – they are high in protein but low in calories.
Do not forget about other ways to pamper your pet – exercise, games and just spending time with him will benefit both the animal and the person.
All of these tips require some effort. But keeping your pet’s body in a lean and healthy state will help prolong its life. Who doesn’t want to spend more time with their beloved pets? Conversation
Ann Carter, Senior Lecturer in Animal Biology, Nottingham Trent University, and Jacqueline Boyd, Senior Lecturer in Animal Science, Nottingham Trent University.
Contact us: [email protected]