Oh, you chubby thing! Reasons for obesity in dogs and cats
Oh, you chubby thing! Reasons for obesity in dogs and cats
A treat here, a rewarding snack there - we all like to spoil our four-legged friends. Before we even realise, our pet has put on a bit too much weight. Our veterinary practitioner Katrin explains how to get rid of this unnecessary and unhealthy excess weight and what kind of food is best avoided.
Facts about obesity in dogs and cats
A few treats will not do any harm to furry friends if they have a normal level of exercise. However, your pet will gain extra pounds over time if you overdo it. Feeding from the table is common, but this leads to weight gain and should therefore be avoided. Between of all dogs and cats in the United Kingdom are carrying around a few extra pounds. This is particularly the case for older animals. Being overweight (obesity) is therefore no rarity, but unfortunately it is dangerous for your pet. So why are an increasing number of quadrupeds becoming overweight?
Reasons for obesity in dogs and cats
Your dog or cat may gain weight for a variety of different reasons. It is often a combination of several factors that turn your slim, four-legged friend into a chubby one.
Some owners do not even recognise the problem themselves and only become aware that their pet is overweight when this is pointed out by friends, neighbours or when visiting an animal medical practitioner or vet. As a dog or cat owner, people are often surprised and shocked at the same time when the number on the scales suddenly shoots right up. Ideally, your overweight pet should be checked often to exclude potential diseases - such as diseases of the thyroid gland.
Studies show that weight gain in neutered bitches is twice as common as in neutered dogs. Why? Essentially, sex hormones regulate the appetite and metabolism of your dog or cat. They inhibit the feeling of hunger and stimulate their metabolism. Neutering eliminates this influence of sex hormones. This results in an excessive appetite with reduced energy requirements. But this does not mean that every neutered animal becomes overweight.
Get the portion right: Snacks in the form of leftovers, i.e. cheese, pigs' ears, dried meat and tuna in oil, which are fed in addition to your pet's main meal (not to mention misguided treats such as sausage, cake, bread, etc.) contain many calories and can pile on the pounds. It can help to remember that your pet will suffer if they are overweight. Contrary to your good intentions, you are not doing your treasured companion any good by giving them too many treats.
As a pet owner you should consider your own approach first: Is the weight gain caused by the fact that you find it easier to feed your pet ready-made food rather than freshly prepared food?
Wet or dry food manufacturers suggest to us pet owners that our dog or our cat will be supplied with everything they need when they eat this food and that they will not suffer from nutritional deficiencies. This gives us a sense of security - feeding our four-legged friends with a minimum of effort makes this attitude even easier and more popular. But this way of thinking shifts responsibility to the feed manufacturers.
Dried pet food in particular, the most popular feeding method among English, is cheap, involves little effort and is easy to store. However, due to its low moisture levels and high carbohydrate content, dry pet food has a very high energy density. So if you feed your pet too much of it or do not provide sufficient exercise for your four-legged friend, they may quickly become overweight.
How do I prevent my pet from gaining weight?
First of all, it’s important to think about the appropriate food. Your pet will eat whatever you give them. So, work out which type of food suits you and your furry friend - while also checking the calorie content of various types of food. Check the information on the pet food packaging.
Note that the portion sizes are only recommendations and may not necessarily apply to your dog or cat. Every animal is different, so the food needs to be individually adapted to the animal. A combination of well-informed shopping and observation of your four-legged friend is therefore the first step towards controlling your pet's weight.
The more weight your pet gains, the harder it will be for them to move. The animal will become lethargic and moves less and less. This quickly develops into a vicious circle. For this reason, you should make sure your pet gets a healthy amount of exercise each day right from the start to keep them fit and prevent excess weight gain.
- Keep an eye on your pet's stomach fat
Dogs and cats are particularly vulnerable to weight gain in the chest, lumbar spine and stomach areas. When you look at the silhouette of your cat or dog, the coat often hides the real weight. Feel your pet's ribs to check how much stomach fat they really have. If you can feel them by placing your hand on their side and pressing lightly, they are not too fat. If there is a layer of fat over them, your pet needs to lose weight. If you can no longer feel the ribs, they are too fat.
Health risks due to obesity
In today's society, where the obsession with being slim does not only apply to humans but also animals, It’s important to mention that being overweight is not just an aesthetic problem. In fact, your pet's weight gain often also poses a health risk. For example, your pet may develop long-term joint erosion or diabetes. The following diseases often develop as a result of obesity:
- Respiratory problems, shortness of breath
- Incontinence in castrated bitches
- Cardiovascular disease
- Poor skin and coat quality
Obesity in pets should therefore not be underestimated, as it has a strong impact on your furry friend's quality of life.
How can you combat your cat or dog's obesity? Tell us more about your four-legged friend's diet in the comments.
I wish you and your four-legged success in your weight loss journey!
Yours sincerely, Katrin