Obesity is a major problem that is seen daily in vet practices, with over half of all the pets in South Africa being overweight. Often, we think that the amount of food we give our beloved pets is too little or that extra treats and food is a harmless spoiling for the day. The truth is that this can lead to weight gain and eventually obesity.

You may be thinking to yourself, “what is so bad about having a porky pet?”. As cute as it may be to see their waddle when they walk, they may be heading for some major health disasters. Obesity can lead to reduced quality of life, decreased stamina, increase flatulence, cause difficulty in breathing, blood pressure problems, heart problems and diabetes. The extra weight will also worsen pain associated with arthritis, increase chances of ligament tears and disc disease. It is proven that overweight animals may live up to 2 years shorter than a pet of ideal weight.

Here are some tips to help your precious pet reach their ideal body weight.

Adjust Their Diet

Stick to premium pet foods because they have excellent weight loss ranges that give your pet the right amount of nutrients while assisting with their weight loss and keeping your fur kid full. Ensure you follow the feeding guidelines on the packaging. In doing so, you should feed according to your pet’s ideal body weight, not what they weigh now (unless the food label says otherwise). Weigh out the amount of food to be given each day, most foods have an appropriate cup made for this.

You should monitor your pet’s weight by weighing them every 2 weeks. Ideally they should only lose between 1% and 2% body weight per week. It is important that your pets weight loss occurs slowly, especially with cats, where rapid weight loss may result in a liver condition. If after 6 to 8 weeks there has been no change in weight, you may need to reduce the amount to slightly less than that indicated on the packaging. If you have any concerns, chat to your vet for advice.

Feed Them Healthy Snacks and Treats

There are some great weight loss treats available that your pet may enjoy. You can give it to them in the wet form straight from the tin or you can bake the tinned food in the oven, turning it into a biscuit treat. You may also choose to give them chicken or fish but keep in mind that this adds to their daily calorie intake and their main diet will need to be reduced accordingly.

Increase Their Exercise

There are some fun ways to increase your pet’s daily exercise. You could take your dogs for walks, runs, take them swimming or play fun games with a ball. With cats you can increase their activity through playful chasing of feathers, toy mice and balls. There is a wide range of toys designed for cats and dogs to play with which can help increase their activity. In severe cases you may need to take your fur friend for physiotherapy.

Consult a Vet

Very rarely, medical conditions exist that can cause abnormal weight gain in your pet. Please make sure you visit your nearest vet if you suspect that this may be the case.

Once your pet has reached their goal weight, you can give yourself a big pat on the back! You have helped to give them a happier, healthier and longer life. You will need to maintain an appropriate diet so that you don’t break the good habits you have formed and so that they keep their ideal body weight.

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