How are your New Year’s Resolutions going folks? Still sticking to a strict diet? Working out at your new gym? Perhaps you’ve completed a successful Dry January? Sadly it’s now a well-known fact that these days pet obesity is as much of a problem among our pets as it is with us. So as well as looking after us and our two-legged family, it’s important we spot, and better still, prevent signs of obesity in our pets.

Actually obesity is now one of the most common nutritional disorders affecting the UK’s dogs and cats, usually caused by simply more energy being taken in than is used, leading to a potentially life-threatening energy surplus. Rabbits are also at risk of obesity too, with potentially disastrous health-related consequences, so always pay special attention to their individual dietary and exercise needs.

Excess energy taken in by us and our pets is stored mainly as fat, with contributing factors such as age, sex, reproductive status, inactivity, genetics, food intake, highly palatable diet, treats, environment, lifestyle, and underlying diseases; all helping to influence weight gain. Many dogs would eat all day if they were allowed free access to food. As owners we have to find the will-power for them, and once they’ve been fed ignore any wide-eyed pleas for more food.

Signs of pet obesity are numerous; from struggling to feel your pet’s ribs, spine or waist line, to abdominal sagging or even a bigger, rounder face. Fat pets are often reluctant to exercise too, sometimes appearing tired or lazy, with breathing often laboured in the worst cases. Flat-faced (brachycephalic) breeds like pugs (pictured) and French bulldogs can also suffer more when overweight.

As responsible pet owners it’s up to us to prevent obesity in our fury friends. Try to avoid feeding scraps or leftovers, carefully check feeding guides, weigh out recommended amounts of appropriate food, and ensure every family member has been given clear instructions regarding whose turn it is and how much to feed your pet.

It’s vital your lovely pet maintains a healthy bodyweight, as obesity can often lead directly to serious medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, depression, and arthritis (which directly affect mobility making it even harder to lose weight!) Furthermore, should your pet have to have an anaesthetic, he or she may be at much greater risk too.

If you think your pet is overweight, please book a free appointment with one of our nurses ASAP as there are several things we can do to help. For example it may be appropriate to change your pet’s feeding habits, increase their levels of exercise, look closely at type and levels of food intake, develop a sensible feeding plan, and include regular visits for free weight checks to record your pet’s progress. Regular weighing and a graph can also help keep your motivation going.

High-protein, high-fibre, but low-fat diets are typically recommended for weight loss, giving pets the feeling of being full and providing more energy. You’ll soon start to notice that when your pet loses weight, they’ll be happier and keener to exercise, thus losing even more weight. Agility and flyball are some of the best activities to take up with your dog too, being both physically and mentally stimulating.

Treats are a common source of extra calories and must always be fed with caution. Healthy treats are an important part of pet ownership, especially when using positive, reward-based training exercises, so always offer appropriate treats like simple carrot sticks, or even part of your pet’s total daily food ration as a treat to avoid any excess calories.

As with all health conditions prevention is better than cure, so for more advice about pet obesity and how to safely help your pet lose weight or maintain correct size, why not call us at Meridian Vets and book in a free weight clinic appointment on 01273 585386.