What are the health risks if your pet is overweight?
There are a number of problems associated with being overweight. Excess weight makes them less mobile and active and so less able to enjoy life. Extra body weight also puts more stress on the joints, increasing joint wear and pain in older pets with arthritis.
It has recently been discovered that the presence of too much fat in the body has other effects including fat taking up space that organs such as the heart and lungs, and the vascular and digestive systems could benefit from. Fat tissue also releases chemical substances that can make other diseases, such as arthritis, worse and the risk of diabetes higher.
Not sure if your pet is overweight?
It can be difficult to tell whether your dog is overweight. Research has shown that people frequently underestimate their dogs weight with many assuming that overweight dogs are the correct weight and that seriously obese dogs are only slightly overweight. Speak to your vet, they are experts in this and will able to tell if they do need to lose some weight and give you valuable help to achieve this.
Here is a tool that will help you do this at home and see if a trip to the vets may be needed.
SPECIFIC body condition scoring guide for dogs.
OK so your dog needs to lose a few pounds – now what?
The good news is that there are diets specifically designed to help your dog lose weight.
A specialist weight loss diet allows them to lose weight whilst still eating full meals and not feeling hungy. These diets are low in fat and high in fibre, so the energy density is lower meaning your dog can still enjoy full portions, giving them a feeling of fullness, whilst losing weight.
These diets are also high in protein. What this does is help maintain muscle mass so the weight loss comes fat rather than lean body mass.
Steps to ideal bodyweight
- Weight check: Get your dog body condition checked and weighed
- Planning: Work with your vet to decide what is the target weight; to choose a weight control food and then calculate the daily feeding amount and an exercise programme.
- Weight reduction phase: Implement the feeding and exercise regime. It’s important that during this phase you measure out the food so, if you need to, you can easily and accurately adjust it.
- Regularly weigh your dog. Top Tip: if you can do this then a simple way is to weigh yourself, then weigh yourself while holding your dog then subtract the two numbers.
- No treats: Don't spoil the good work with the wrong treats, especially table scraps, and make sure everyone knows what you are doing so they are not inadvertently feeding more.
- Be patient: It is not going to happen overnight but if you stick with it your dog will lose weight and it will all be worth it with a happier healthy dog
- Maintain weight: Once you have reached target weight you need to make sure they stay there – you may want to look at weight control diets that are lower in energy
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SPECIFICTM Nutrition Team, Dechra