New Year, New You? Have you ever thought about applying the same mantra for your pet? An astounding 59% of dogs in the UK are now considered to be classified as obese which is a frightfully high statistic!
These days, overweight dogs are commonly perceived to be ‘normal’ due to influences such as social media, breed standards, pressures from family and friends, as well as a lack of understanding about what is truly healthy. A lack of exercise, misunderstanding feeding guidelines and excessive calorific treats are all recognised as major contributing factors to pet obesity.
Often breed standards will stipulate that a breed should be a specific weight, however, this often does not take into account gender, height and body shape. A healthy weight for a taller male will often be too heavy for a slighter female therefore determining her as overweight although she meets the breed standards specifications. Instead of focusing on bodyweight and breed specifications, we should more importantly be body condition scoring our pets on a frequent basis.
What is a body condition score and how do I do it?
Body condition scoring is based upon a points system ranging from 1-9; 1 being anorexic and 9 being morbidly obese. Pets with a score of 4 or 5 have an ideal body shape so therefore are also the ideal bodyweight. When looking at our pets from above, we should be able to notice a well defined waist. When looking at them from the side we should see a noticeable tummy tuck. Finally when feeling their chest area, we should be able to easily feel their rib cage without having to press through a layer of fat. If you are unable to do any of these points, it might be likely that your pet is carrying a little excess body fat. When body condition scoring your pet, remember to be realistic as it is only yourself you are fooling. It is also important to highlight that smaller breeds tend to accumulate excess fat around the chest area giving them a stocky appearance. This is only a guide so it is strongly advised to contact your veterinary surgery for further advice if you have any concerns.
Consequences of obesity include heart disease, breathing problems, joint disease and orthopaedic problems, diabetes, tumours, exercise intolerance and most importantly reduced lifespan coupled with reduced quality of life. All of these conditions are so simply prevented by making very small but consistent changes. Did you know that you can feed up to 22% extra calories per meal when using a measuring cup instead of digital scales? Over the course of a week this mounts up very quickly! Next time you’re using a measuring cup why don’t you weigh the contents on scales afterwards? Is it what you expected it to be? Can you trust that this method will be consistently correct everyday? Pet ‘treats’ often tend to be super high in calories, instead try to reward your pet with playtime or cuddles? ‘Human’ foods also hold a lot of calories for our furry friends as well as being high in salt and fat so ideally should not be given to pets at all, at the very least on an extremely infrequent basis. Giving treats to pets is usually mistaken for kindness or due to guilt however it can have a massive detrimental effect on your pets life.
Feeding guidelines can often be confusing and vague never mind the million and one dog food options out there! Choosing the correct dog food can be a minefield but if you have any concerns or questions, your vet should be able to help you. Ultimately, once you have chosen an appropriate food for your dog it is easy to get into the habit of being complacent with their feeding so make wise choices and weigh out the food everyday; I promise it will take less than a matter of minutes. Instead of giving treats, why don’t you give your pet some kibble from their daily allowance? Therefore they are not getting excess calories but still think they are being rewarded!
The next time you’re in your vets and the vet or the net nurse mentions that your pet is overweight, please do not be offended they are only trying to improve your pets quality of life and in the long run you and your pet will thank them!
Yours sincerely, a frustrated vet nurse.
All information taken from:
Written by: Sarah Baddon, Veterinary Nurse