FARMING: Lockdown gains can be a weighty issue for pets

Like many of us, a reduction in activity due to lockdown this year has been followed by a rise in pets carrying a little extra weight.

By Daisy Rankin
Thursday, 29th October 2020, 12:00 am
No weight issues for this sprightly beagle.
No weight issues for this sprightly beagle.

This “lockdown weight” however can have serious consequences on our pet’s health if we don’t regain control and help them shed those extra pounds. The most common conditions associated with overweight pets include, diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure and some types of cancers. In addition, they have an increased surgical and anaesthetic risk should they require an operation. It is also more difficult for us to detect problems in overweight animals as we are less able to notice changes to their body shape or any unusual lumps or bumps behind excess padding.

To determine whether animals are overweight or underweight we use a Body Condition Score which unlike the Body Mass Index measurement used in humans can take into account the vast variety of shapes and sizes seen in our pets. Once a Body Condition Score has been assigned and the animal has been weighed it is important we find out more information about diet, exercise and any extra treats they may be getting. It is also important that we rule out any underlying illnesses that may be causing your pet to gain weight.

Next, targets need to be set so that vet and owner can work together to reduce a pet’s weight as a safe speed.

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A weight loss chart may be useful so that the pet’s weight can be recorded accurately and everyone in the family is aware of how successfully the diet is working. A specific weight loss food should be fed in set meals, measured accurately according to the animals target weight.

Any treats that are fed need to be taken out of the calorie count for that day and healthy treats such as carrot are a much better alternative to treats high in fat or carbohydrate. Bones, rawhide chews and dental health sticks all also contain extra calories so must be included in your pet’s daily allowance.

Exercise is vital, although the frequency and intensity must be altered according to the species, age, size and any existing health conditions. Playing with toys such as laser pointers or balls is a good extra way to increase activity and using puzzle feeders will help slow ingestion and help pets feel fuller.

It has not only been proven that animals of a healthy weight live longer than their overweight counterparts but they are also more playful and energetic. For further tips on weight loss or to have your pet evaluated by a vet please feel free to call any of our branches.

Our nurses also run weight loss clinics so you are welcome to ring the practice if you feel your pet may benefit from these.