We are all too familiar with the cute nose “boops”, puppy eyes and pawing under the table from our dogs to get our attention at the dining table, or the leg rubbing, constant meowing and cuteness from our cats as they beg for just a bit more food. The question is, are we doing them any favours by giving just a touch more than the recommended daily amount of pet food, or a bite here and there of our human food snacks?
Ensure you buy the best pet food that you can afford, and according to your pet’s breed, life stage and size. While premium vet food brands are considered ideal in ensuring your pet is receiving the best, quality and nutrient rich food, there are many benefits to feeding a raw or home cooked diet in dogs too – ensuring it is done correctly and under the guidance of a qualified pet nutritionist.
In overweight dogs and cats, the issue usually stems from too much snacking rather than overfeeding their main meals. You may be following the exact feeding instructions as per the bag of kibbles, but dog biscuits, cheese, bread and other human foods high in calories and fat is probably what is making your animal overweight.
The image below gives a clear outline as to what is considered the ideal weight in dogs and cats. If you are unable to assess your pet thoroughly, we recommend that you consult your vet.
Pet weight myths:
Spaying or neutering your pet causes them to gain weight
Too much food and too little exercise causes weight gain. Responsible pet ownership starts with sterilizing your pet at 6 months of age, especially in South Africa where our animal welfare organizations are overflowing with unwanted pets. Sterilization can also lessen or eliminate the chances of some health and behavioural problems arising.2
My pet is not fat, he/she is naturally chubby
Animals in the wild are not chubby, so neither should your pet be. It is not natural to be overweight.2
A cup of kibble is the same for all brands
Every kibble has a different density, set of ingredients and nutritional value. When portioning out food for each pet, it is vitally important to follow the feeding guide as specified on the packaging. This goes according to weight, breed, age and sometimes activity levels.1
Exercise is important in maintaining healthy weight
Most pets including dogs, cats, hamsters, and rabbits need exercise to maintain a healthy weight and for their mental wellbeing. Taking your dog for daily walks, playing fetch, playing with your cat with a rope toy or providing your rodent with space to run allows them to burn calories, maintain good muscle strength, keep their minds alert, and stop them from begging for food out of boredom.
Treats are bad for my pet
You can treat your dog or other pet with healthy snacks. Swop the cheese, high calorie biscuits, bread, and processed meat for things like carrot pieces, apple slices, or small training treats. Remember to treat sparingly and be disciplined. Don’t fall for the begging. Rather divert your pet’s attention to a game, affection, or a walk outside.3
The dangers of pet obesity
Shortens your pet’s life span
In a large, lifetime study of Labrador Retrievers, it was found that your dog even being moderately overweight can reduce life expectancy by nearly two years in comparison with those who are an ideal weight.4 Yes, you read that right.
Increases chances of developing diseases
Fat is biologically active tissue which creatives oxidative stress in the body and secretes inflammatory hormones, both of which contribute to diseases. These include:
- heart disease
- osteoarthritis and faster degeneration of bones and joints
- and more.4
Just as in humans, pets need to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle to ensure they have quality of life and as many years to enjoy with us as possible. Your pet looks to you for nutrition, care, and happiness. Ensure you are doing your utmost best, even if it means saying “no” and getting up just a bit earlier to take them for a walk before work. They will be loyal to you and bring you much joy.
- Brodie Animal Hospital. 2022. 5 Myths About Your Pet’s Weight | Brodie Animal Hospital. [online] Available at: <https://www.brodieanimalhospital.com/blog/5-myths-about-your-pets-weight/> [Accessed 18 January 2022].
- Vcahospitals.com. 2022. Obesity In Dogs | VCA Animal Hospitals. [online] Available at: <https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/obesity-in-dogs> [Accessed 18 January 2022].