Managing obesity in pets

Almost half of dogs and one third of cats in Australia are overweight or obese.

How can you resist those adoring eyes your pet gives you when you’re eating something? Surely a small amount won’t hurt.

Although it may be hard to resist giving your pet an extra treat or a little bit more food when they show off their puppy dog eyes, obesity is a serious concern for pets and can lead to many serious health concerns or shorten their lifespan.

When your pet becomes overweight or obese it creates a range of health-related issues. Not only does it place stress on your pet’s vital organs and joints, it can potentially cause heart problems, pancreatitis, Cushing’s disease, diabetes, liver and renal issues.

With almost half of dogs and one third of cats in Australia being overweight or obese, Animal Welfare League Queensland (AWLQ) Senior Veterinarian Dr Bridget Brown said veterinarians are seeing an increase of pets with health issues due to being overweight.

“Pets may be overweight due to a number of factors including being overfed, a high-fat diet or lack of exercise,” Dr Brown said.

“If you are concerned about your pet’s weight, the first step is to consult your local veterinarian who will perform a thorough health exam of your pet and assess the body condition score of your animal.

“Your vet will then discuss with you the healthy weight range for your pet and help you formulate a weight loss plan involving diet choices and exercise options.”

There are varied opinions on animal diets, however, there are two common options which include:

  • Premium dry food: It is entirely acceptable to feed your cat or dog a good quality dry kibble (biscuit) only diet. You can mix this up with a small amount of good quality wet food, sardines in spring water, cooked meat, fish or vegetables and rice.
  • A natural diet: While a natural diet such as cooked vegetables mixed with lean cooked meat can suit some dogs very well, ensure you choose human-grade meat, practise good food hygiene and have a veterinary nutritionist formulate the diet for you.

Dr Brown said many dogs lack enough fibre in their diet.

“The addition of cooked pumpkin or grated carrot can improve their bowel health,” Dr Brown said.

“Boiled pumpkin or carrot can be mixed with some other vegetables, or a small piece of lean meat.

“It is always best to consult your veterinarian as your pet’s diet will depend on the individual needs of the animal.

“How much a pet should eat depends on how much exercise they get, their breed, size and any health issues that might require special dietary requirements, especially if it is a mature animal.”

With the festive season just around the corner, now is the time to be vigilant when feeding your pets. Here are some common foods your ‘fur babies’ should avoid at Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

AWLQ and RACQ are proudly working together to help Queensland pets. RACQ is offering pet owners three months free pet insurance when they either adopt an eligible pet from AWLQ or are a customer of an AWLQ vet clinic.