Pet obesity

Jennifer Davies of Fisantekraal Animal Welfare (FAW) says: “According to the latest research, pet obesity is one of the biggest health issues facing pets today – and it can have serious consequences.”

An overweight or obese pet is at risk of a host of health problems. Davies says: “Of course, an underweight, starving animal is unacceptable, but allowing your pet to become obese is also serious. Not only does it put them at risk of health problems like arthritis, heart disease and cancer, it can even shorten your furry friend’s life.”

Davies explains that an estimated 90% of owners of overweight pets think their pet is a normal size. Yet vets say that around 50% of pets are overweight. She says that there are several reasons: “It is hard to be objective with our loved ones – and hard to say no when they look at you with ‘puppy dog eyes’. It makes us happy to ‘spoil’ them with treats. Many of these treats are unhealthy and high in refined ingredients. People also often aren’t sure about exactly how much and what to feed their pets. There is also often less time or a safe environment to help pets work off any excess weight with walks and playing.”

Davies emphasises that helping your pet to lose weight should be a gradual process. “Drastically decreasing food and increasing exercise can be dangerous. Unfit animals can be injured by sudden exercise if they aren’t used to it. This is especially important if your pet is old, has joint or ligament problems, or is a ‘flat-faced’ breed. It is important to consult your vet first as there may even be an underlying cause such as an underactive thyroid needing medication. There are also certain conditions that can make an animal look overweight when they aren’t, such as heart failure which can cause fluid to gather in the belly or tumours causing swelling.”

How do you know if your pet is overweight? Davies says, “If their ribs can’t be felt, their belly is sagging, they don’t have a ‘waist’, and their back looks broad, they may be overweight. If you can see and feel the ribs, spine, and tailbone sticking out, then the animal is underweight and you should seek help.”

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