By Trish Gudgion
Obesity in pets is a very common problem and also can be very difficult to overcome.
In my years at the Vet Surgery I’d often hear ‘I’ve tried everything to make her lose weight but nothing is working’ or ‘She eats hardly anything, but she just keeps putting on weight’ and lots of variations on the theme!
The point is that our pets don’t gain weight by magic…somehow, somewhere too much food is being eaten. Now this does not necessarily mean that we as owners are over-feeding – many pets are expert at finding those extra portions for themselves – so we need to turn detective to find out the cause of their weight gain.
I had an issue with my little collie/jack russell, Sassie (the oddest dog you ever set eyes on – long body, short legs). She’s such a glutton and would steal the other animals’ food, anything she found on the floor, in the garden, the bin and so on. She also has the saddest eyes when her humans have a biscuit or chocolate…getting the picture?
Well the result was an 11kg dog that weighed 17.5kg – something needed to be done about it if she was to stay healthy, after all there can be quite a few nasty side-effects when pets become obese:- Heart problems, Diabetes, skin problems, breathing difficulty, Arthritis and mobility issues to name a few
The first thing we did was restrict her meals with a ‘light’ complete food and train the family not to give her treats or left-overs – family-training can sometimes be as difficult as dog training!
She was fed alone so that our other dog and two cats could finish their meals in peace. It was also important not to leave food down for them other than at mealtimes.
We walked her on a leash when going for exercise because she was very clever at finding food that people had thrown away and kept a close eye on her when she was in our own garden to keep her away from the dustbin – our garden is fairy small, but in a larger garden we may have thought about fencing off a small controlled section especially for her.
Under a strict system, Sassie lost just over 5kg and now is much fitter and looks great – but I know lots of Pet Talk readers have similar problems and experience difficulty controlling their pets’ intake of food so I have put together a short list of tips and tricks that may help:
* Put your pet in another room or in the garden while the family is eating
* All left-overs to go straight into the bin
* Use a prescription diet food for weight loss and measure how much you need to feed at each meal
* No treats allowed (If ‘family training’ is not going well or your dog gives you ‘sad eyes’, feed low calorie treats e.g carrot, a small piece of crispbread, or take a little from the daily meal quota and give as a treat)
* If your cat ‘goes next door’ you may need to keep him at home for a while – an indoor kennel may help Restrict your dog’s access to a large garden so that you can control any stealing (dogs will eat windfall fruit or vegetables)
* Exercise on a lead (good for you also – it makes you walk further!) and consider using a headcollar for instant control
* Aim for a little weight loss weekly as too much too quickly is not good for your pet
Lastly, remember your vet is there for advice. Many surgeries now have nurses running very successful weight loss clinics for pets.
Trish, a registered RCVS Veterinary Nurse, was in paractice for many years and now runs Pet Talk Hints & Tips advice newsletter for pet owners and supplies ethical pet supplies http://www.alphapetshop.co.uk
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