When our pets are of optimum weight, not only is chronic disease delayed in our animal companions, they can also enjoy longer lives. A 14 year study (Keely et al) showed that dogs fed to lean condition from early puppyhood throughout later life can enjoy up to two more healthy, active years. That’s more precious time for us to spend with our beloved pets. Weight management is such an important part of being a responsible pet owner, so here are our tips to help keep your pet in tip top condition.
1. Get Hands On and Size-up Your Pet
When we see our pet every day, we don’t always spot changes in their size and weight.
That’s why it’s important to regularly monitor our pet’s size and get in the habit of doing a ‘technical cuddle’.
To do this, first check out UK Pet Food’s Pet Size O-Meter which is a visual guide or body condition score chart. There are versions for dogs, cats, rabbits, birds and Guinea pigs.
The guide shows you how to feel your pet’s body and check whether it is a healthy size. Remember though that this is a starting point and if you have any concerns about your pet’s weight you should always talk to your vet.
Once your adult pet is at their ideal weight, record their weight and use it as a guide. The Pet Size O-Meter is a simple, but effective tool to help you keep on top of your pet’s weight management.
Be sure to weigh your pet every six months and increase to every three months in their senior years.
If your pet’s weight deviates by 5% in six months, for example, contact your vet. This way, any underlying issues will be picked up quickly, leading to earlier treatment.
It’s an easy way to keep tabs on your pet’s eating habits and food intake.
By getting into the habit of using this daily, you’ll be able to keep a record of exactly what your pet is eating. You may be surprised at the end of the week, just how many treats have been given!
3. Speaking of Treats….Everything In Moderation
There’s nothing wrong with giving your pet an occasional treat. Healthy commercial treats can be a great way of building on that human/animal bond and can deliver benefits like teeth cleaning and joint care.
They can also be great motivation for some pets when being trained, but be aware of how many, how often.
Treats can be incorporated into your pet’s diet, just make sure they account for no more than 10% of their calorie intake.
To do this, don’t fall for the puppy-dog eyes trick! Research from Tails.com highlighted that 38% of owners admitted to giving in to their dog for simply “looking cute”, while a further 22% offered up a treat if they thought it would keep their dog quiet or occupied.
If you struggle to stay strong in these moments, try this. Instead of rewarding your dog with treats for good behaviour, try rewarding them with your attention instead. Take 5 minutes to play their favourite game or give them a belly rub.
4. Always Ask For Help
Generally speaking, if you struggle to feel your pet’s ribs, spine and hip bones and they don’t have a clear waistline, they are likely to be overweight or obese.
It may be that reducing the calorie intake with your pet’s existing diet will not work and your pet may require a ‘light’ or ‘weight management’ diet.
Always speak to your local veterinary practice for advice and to rule out any underlying health issues, at the earliest opportunity.
Remember there is a lot of free expertise to help you make the right decision too.
With UK Pet Food research revealing that 74% of vets believe pet obesity levels are increasing, it’s so important we take these simple steps to provide our animal companions with as happy and healthy lives as possible.
For more weight management advice check out: