Do you have a “Lardy Larry” or a “Tubby Toby”? Unfortunately obesity is all too common in pets these days. Sadly, the saying that we're “killing them with kindness” is all too true. Overweight animals are prone to a multitude of illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, respiratory problems and liver failure. So if you're committed to helping your pet lose weight here are some tops tips to get you off to a good start.
1. Keep it simple. If they eat more calories than they burn then they'll put on weight. To really succeed work on both sides of the equation: Reduce the number of calories consumed and increase the number of calories burned through exercise.
2. To reduce the calories consumed feed a prescription weight loss diet available from your vet. As well as being low in fat and calories, these diets also have added ingredients, such as L-carnitine and lysine, which are natural fat burners and encourage lean muscle mass. They also ensure that your dog or cat still gets a balanced diet with all the nutrients that he or she needs, as well as helping your pet to still feel full and not go elsewhere to scrounge for food.
3. Calculate precisely how much to feed with each meal, and measure it out each time. Your vet can assist you with working out feeding amounts and by doing regular weigh-ins to monitor progress.
4. Feed two smaller meals a day rather than one large meal.
5. Cut out all table scraps and don't give your pet any leftovers!
6. Watch those treats. Use only low fat treats – either commercial diet treats or some dogs love chopped up carrots or celery. Raw hide chews can keep a dog busy for hours and have zero fat.
7. Start regular daily exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes at a time. If your dog is unfit, build up the distance gradually. If your dog seems arthritic, have a vet check – you'll be amazed at how much easier exercise will become if the arthritis is treated. To exercise cats you can encourage ball or string chasing games up and down the hallways!
8. If you have a long haired dog or cat, consider having their fur shaved short. It'll enable them to tolerate heat better and make it easier for them to exercise. But beware … shaving will also let you see how fat they really are!
9. If your pet is failing to lose weight despite following all of these tips then there may be a true underlying medical condition such as under-active thyroid glands. A visit to your vet and a simple blood test are needed to diagnose hypothyroidism. It is common in older dogs and is easily treated.
So this Easter, keep the chocolate to yourself (it's toxic to dogs anyway) and get out walking with your dog. It'll be good for both of you.
Dr Kevin Cruickshank is a South African trained and qualified vet living and practicing at the Gold Coast Vet Surgery in Queensland.