In the last 25 or so years Pet Obesity has been a growing concern, so much so that in 1998 the Guiness Book of Records stopped awarding records for 'The Worlds Heaviest Pets' this was to try and avoid pet owners overfeeding to achieve such an award. A survey completed in 2007 by the APOP (Association for Pet Obesity Prevention) showed that Pet Obesity was on the rise and by 2011 was declared a pandemic with a larger number of pets all over the world heavier than their ideal.
In the 21st century it is clear much loved pets are cared for better than ever before, but are some being killed with kindness? Most pets look super cute with that little bit of extra blub and seeing them waddle about provides some entertainment but did you know overweight pets are more likely to develop severe health problems such as Diabetes, Arthritis, High Blood Pressure and Cancer and even have a lower life expectancy than their healthy weight counterparts. The latest survey conducted by APOP suggests that more than half the population of pet cats (59.5%) and dogs (55.8%) are overweight and could do with losing a few pounds!
The first thing to do when you think your pet may need to shed some unwanted pounds is to check their weight or their Body Condition Score (BCS). We have included some pictures courtesy of World Small Animal Veterinary Association as guidance, to check your pets BCS you can run your fingers lightly along your pets side, you should be able to feel and count your pets ribs. When looking at your pet from above they should show an 'hourglass' figure, if it looks like your pet has little to no waistline its likely they are overweight. When looking from the side as your pet is standing naturally, you should observe an upward slope of the tummy or a tuck, if this isn't the case and your pets abdomen is hanging low or even dragging the ground (commonly seen in obese cats) this would indicate a lot of abdominal fat is present which is the most dangerous and biologically active form of fat.
How can you help your pet?
This may sound like the obvious answer, but encouraging light exercise and providing less food/ stop feeding scraps would be a good start to helping your pet regain some energy and become more active. Be understanding though and start with small amounts of exercise, don't start taking your dog for 5mile walks when it isn't used to it. Just like people animals need to build up their fitness gradually.
For dogs encouraging more exercise is a little easier than a cat, taking them to the Doggie Fun Park or letting them roam off lead when safe to do so is proven to burn more calories than a walk on the lead. For cats encouraging play time at home will start to get their little furry butts going. As your pet loses weight they will begin to have more energy and therefore will exercise themselves more as long as you can keep them on a healthy sized ration of food.
Should you need any extra advice or support you should speak to your vet or an animal nutritionist who will be able to advise further.