Help! My Dog is Getting Fat!

Watching the scale creep up is unnerving in humans but, as it turns out, carrying around a little extra podge may be even worse for your dog. According to the latest veterinary surveys, over half our nation’s dogs are overweight (!!!) and at risk for developing arthritis, diabetes, kidney and heart disease, high blood pressure and many forms of cancer. It’s up to us to monitor and take responsibility for the physical health of our dogs but how can you slim down your super-sized pet while keeping them happy? The answer might be easier than you think. Give these tips a try and you’ll be on your way to your pet’s healthiest year yet!

Over 60% of vets say obesity is the biggest health and welfare concern for UK pets, according to figures released by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) this World Obesity Day (11 October).

BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey polled over 1,600 vets across the UK about the welfare issue that they were most concerned about, with almost two-thirds of companion animal vets citing obesity or overfeeding. As with humans, obesity is a very serious health issue for pets and can lead to life-long and life-threatening illnesses such as heart disease, breathing problems, diabetes and arthritis.

Not following or understanding pet food feeding guidelines, providing too many treats and snacks, and a lack of exercise are all issues contributing to the expanding paunches of our nation’s pets. Although many people believe they are being kind to their animals by providing treats and bigger food portions, they are instead, unintentionally, contributing to their pet’s poor health and limiting their lifespan. Many owners also give their pets human food as a treat, however one human biscuit can equate to a whole packet when fed to an animal due to their smaller body size.

Gudrun Ravetz, President of the British Veterinary Association, said:
“Obesity is a potential killer for pets and we know more and more practices are seeing overweight animals coming through their doors. Many owners show love for their pet through food, but often this is a case of killing with kindness - most animals would instead enjoy playing or interacting with their owner just as much as getting a treat. It’s also vital that owners understand how to correctly feed their pet and how to recognise a healthy body shape, which is something your local vet is well placed to help advise.”

Professor Susan Dawson, President of the British Small Veterinary Association (BSAVA) added:
“It really is vital that vets and pet owners work together to help animals stay healthy. All companion animals deserve a nutritionally balanced diet; in fact it is a requirement of the Animal Welfare Acts. Of course it is tempting to give too many treats and easy to forget to weigh food out, but because obesity can cause serious health and welfare problems for companion animals BSAVA strongly recommends that bodyweight and body condition are monitored regularly and diets modified to maintain a healthy weight. Talk to your vet or vet nurse – they can help.”

Any pet can become obese and it is therefore very important to understand how to feed them correctly. If owners are in any doubt about their pet’s diet or unsure of the right food or portion size for their animal, they should speak to a local vet who will be able to advise them.

We know the health risks for us and our pets of being overweight(diabetes, heart disease, joint pain etc), so how about a New Year’s resolution to get fit with your pet? 

Exercising with your dog is great for your physical and mental health, and for your dog's too. Some studies even suggest that dogs benefit two-fold from walks with their owners as they cover double the distance. A win–win situation – so what is stopping you?

Get yourself motivated

Greyhound looking out on a fieldTime may be an issue and perhaps motivation. It is never easy to motivate yourself to get up a bit earlier on a cold, dark winter morning to take the dog out. But it is worth it! I bet your dog will be pleased to see you and keen for a walk. And once you are out there, I promise you will feel good. Also think how happy your dog will be for that bit of extra time and run around with you - their favourite friend.

The NHS recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise as part of your weekly exercise regime. This could be your 30 minute morning walk and even better if you repeat it in the evening. Let’s start the year by thinking what would our dogs like – watch the T.V or go for a walk? Make their year by turning off the television and going for a walk.

A healthy dog is a happy dog

We know that too many dogs are overweight and are left by themselves for long periods of the day (as shown in the2015 PDSA PAW report), which is partly why dog health and welfare is a BVA priority area. But let's make it a priority for all of us this year. Let’s make sure that we are there that bit extra for our dogs and keep them and ourselves fit, happy and healthy. Walking or running with the dog is cheaper than the gym membership and much more fun and rewarding

Top tips for getting dogs fit

Here are some tips for improving your dog's fitness:

  • Go the extra mile – on country walks or do an extra circuit around the local park but remember that your dog should be on a lead in the countryside when there is livestock around
  • Think toys not treats – toys that a dog can play with and get fun exercise from can get that tail wagging as energetically as treats
  • Join a club – lots of vet practices run fit clubs and weight-control clubs
  • Get the right diet – make sure that your dog’s diet is right for the breed, the size, the age and the lifestyle of your pet
  • Ask your local vet – your local vet will know your pet and its needs better than most. If in doubt about your pet’s health, exercise regime or diet, ask your vet

When exercising your dog in winter, remember to be aware of certain hazards cold weather and dark nights can bring. 

We are a nation of dog lovers so let’s show it by spending some quality time with them out on a walk and look after their physical and mental health – and it is good for owners!

1. Calculate Calories
If you don’t know how many calories your pet needs each day, you don’t know how much to feed. And don’t think you can trust the bag; feeding guides are formulated for adult, un-spayed or un-neutered active dogs and cats. That means if you have an older, spayed or neutered indoor lap potato you’re probably feeding 20% to 30% too much if you follow the food’s instructions. Instead, ask your veterinarian to calculate the proper number of calories your pet needs each day. Another good starting point is to use this formula: Divide your pet’s weight by 2.2. Multiply this figure times 30. Add 70 and you’ve got a general idea of how many calories you should be feeding a typical inactive, indoor spayed or neutered dog or cat weighing between 6 and 60 pounds. ** [(pet’s weight in lbs/2.2) x 30] +70 ** Of course, each pet’s metabolism is different so be sure to consult your veterinarian before starting a diet.

2. Measure Meals
A pet parent’s single greatest tool in the fight against excess weight is a measuring cup. Too many pet owners simply fill the bowl or “guesstimate” how much they’re feeding. Even worse, some pets, especially cats, are fed an “all-day buffet” that results from the “just keep the bowl full” feeding method. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention has done studies to show that feeding as few as 10 extra tiny kibbles of food per day can add up to a pound of weight gain per year in indoor cats and small dogs. After you calculate how many calories your pet needs, determine how much food you should feed each meal – and measure it. 

3. Tactical Treating
First off, I’m not anti-treats. I am anti-junk treats. If you’re going to give your pets extra goodies, make ‘em count. Too many pet treats are what I call “calorie grenades” laden with sugar and fat blowing up our pet’s waistlines and destroying their health. Choose low-calorie, no-sugar goodies that provide a health benefit. I like single ingredient treats such as sweet potato, salmon, and blueberry bites or functional treats that provide a bonus such as helping to keep teeth clean or promote mobility. Whatever treats you give, be sure to count those additional calories.  Many pet owners feed the proper amount of food but sabotage their efforts by adding one or two snacks throughout the day. As few as 30 extra calories per day means your pet gains over three pounds in a year.

Better yet, dogs don’t do division. Break treats into peewee pieces and divvy them out whenever your pet earns it. Be cautious of “guilt-treating” – the practice of giving your pet a treat because you feel guilty leaving them home alone. Instead, use treats only as a reward for good behavior. Pets (and people) need to learn to earn extra goodies.

4. Vital Veggies
As an alternative to highly-processed store-bought treats, try offering baby carrots, green beans, celery, broccoli, cucumbers, sliced apples and bananas or ice cubes. These naturally nutritious tasty tidbits are a healthy option for many dogs. For cats, try a flake of salmon or tuna when you’re feeling generous

5. Hustle for Health
When it comes to living a long, pain-and disease-free life, research proves our most powerful partner is daily exercise. Speaking of partners, anyone with a dog has a built-in, no-excuse exercise buddy. For dogs, as little as 20 to 30-minutes of brisk walking is all it takes to boost immune function, improve cardiovascular health and reduce many behavioral problems. For cats, try playing with a laser pointer, remote-controlled toy or ball of paper for 5 to 15 minutes each day. Do yourself and your dog a favor and commit to daily walks, rain or shine. The health benefits of walking extend to both ends of the leash.

6. Smart Supplements
A couple of supplements may help keep your pet (and you) fit and trim.  Almost every dog, and cat can benefit from taking FENLAND FORAGER'S PET TONIC OIL supplement. These powerful oil pack a potent anti-oxidant punch that has been helps prevent and treat numerous diseases. In addition, they may help ease achy joints and perhaps encourage weight loss. L-carnitine has been shown to aid weight loss and promote lean muscle mass in some studies.

7. Cut Down the Carbs
Most of the pet dogs and cats I treat for don’t need a high-carbohydrate diet. Yet that’s exactly what most of us feed our pets. Many diets contain 60% or more carbohydrates when you analyze the food label. I prefer low- or no-grain options with a protein source as the first ingredient, especially for cats needing to slim down. As a general rule, I recommend trying a higher protein / low carb diet first for weight loss in my patients. Be sure to check with your veterinarian before making any diet changes. Pets with certain conditions, such as kidney failure, may do better on a different type of diet.

It’s the responsibility of each of us to help our pets maintain a healthy weight. Just as you’d never walk your dog without a collar and leash or allow them to eat only pizza and ice cream (which many dogs would LOVE!), it’s up to pet owners to feed healthy, nutritious foods and treats and exercise daily. By using these seven simple suggestions, you’ll be on your way to your pet’s best – and healthiest – year yet!