More from Rebecca our pet expert about how to keep your pets healthy

Healthy pet = happy life

We all love to spoil our pets, especially around the Christmas period but it’s important to not overdo it.
Obesity is a growing concern and as a veterinary professional I am seeing more and more pets with a few too extra pounds.
I also get a lot of new owners, with young pets asking, “Is my dog too skinny?”
We have become used to seeing pets that are overweight and it becoming to look “normal”
Here are some tips to help you and your pet onto a healthier path.
Maintaining a well-balanced exercise routine
Not everyone enjoys going out in the wet and cold, but it is important to provide your pet with daily exercise. However, being more active indoors is also a useful plan for those truly horrid weather days.
– Create a new game or new trick – This will not only get your pet more active but will provide mental stimulation and can be a great bonding tool for you both. Maybe you can learn a new dance routine?
– Making mealtimes last longer – There are a wide range of food mazes available, and they are a fantastic tool for pets that eat too quickly. Again, they will provide mental stimulation and get them moving around as they try and get the food from the toy. Food mazes do not need to break the bank, if you do not mind cleaning up the mess you can create your own using cardboard boxes, toilet roll tubes and even make your own snuffle mat.
– Field hire – Field hires are becoming more popular, and you will be able to find one nearby. They are a fantastic place to have a safe and secure exercise experience with your dog. Although you may need to wrap up warm, your dog will love the freedom. They are great for dogs that suffer from anxiety, are dog reactive or do not have good recall.
Diet and mealtimes
We all love to treat our pets but, like chocolate and junk food, they are usually high in fat/sugar and are not good for your pet. If you are ever in doubt regarding your pets’ weight, any veterinary practice will be able to assist you, most will offer weight clinics to keep you on target.
– Allocate their food – Animals do not know they are getting a “treat” they just see it as food. Take a percentage of their dry food from their daily allowance and use their kibble as the treats.
– Dental chews – If you are trying to maintain a healthy smile swapping those dental chews for something less fattening can also improve your pets’ weight and health. Raw carrots are a great replacement food and, in the summer, can be placed in the freezer to make them even harder to chew. Try and teach your pet to brush their teeth. This is always a great idea when they are young, so they are used to it from an early age. There are also products available that can be placed on their food which breaks down the tartar on their teeth.
– Think about what you are giving them – it’s quite easy to lose track of what they are being fed. Maintaining a food diary (especially within a family household) to monitor their intake closely. To give you an idea for a dog, 60g of cheese is equivalent to a human eating 2 doughnuts, a 178g of tuna is worth 3 doughnuts and a rawhide bone (190g) is equivalent to 7 doughnuts. For cats 25g of chicken is equal to 2 doughnuts, 100mls of milk is worth 3 doughnuts and liver pate is 7 doughnuts. When you include them with their daily food allowance it quickly adds up!
Breed, age, and potential health implications
Certain breeds are predisposed to obesity and your veterinary practice will always advice that you research the breeds needs before bringing them into your home.
As your pet ages it increases the risk of obesity, as pets get older, they can develop joint pain which will make them reluctant to exercise as much. Obesity can add additional pressure to their joints which can cause more pain, this then causes a resistance to exercise and you are stuck in a vicious cycle and correction of the obesity can become more difficult. If your pet is becoming overweight it can also cause issues with their grooming, cats will develop matted fur as they cannot reach certain areas when they are grooming. Small mammals like rabbits and guinea pigs can suffer dangerous gastrointestinal complications if they are not able to eat their caecotrophes. They can also develop urinary issues when they become less mobile and active.
Although it is advised to neuter your pets, its known that once neutered they do naturally become more at risk of obesity. This is due to the hormonal changes their body undergoes when neutered which can cause an increase in appetite and decreased physical activity. Discussion with your veterinary practice will provide you with advice and tips on how to minimise that risk including diet changes and exercise routines.
If your pet is becoming overweight it can have very serious, long term and potentially costly health implications. Not only will is shorten their lifespan but the long-term health implications are higher.
– Diabetes is manageable but it must be a strict daily routine for mealtimes, daily injections, and regular health checks with your vet. If diabetes goes unchecked/diagnosed your pet could go into “Diabetic Ketoacidosis” otherwise known as DKA. This could result in a lengthy hospitalisation stay for critical care management. This condition can be managed, and support will always be available from your veterinary practice.
– Like people, overweight pets can develop heart disease and respiratory distress. Extra weight on the body will add extra pressure on their vital organs and increasing their cholesterol levels within their bodies. Brachycephalic breeds (French bulldogs, boxers, bulldogs) already have a compromised airway and adding in overweight/obesity can really affect their ability to breathe. These conditions will require regular vet checks, specialist imaging and long-term medication.
– High blood pressure or “hypertension” is a condition which can be managed with medications, regular vet checks, regular blood pressure appointments and lifestyle changes. High blood pressure can have very serious health implications if unmanaged including blindness and chronic renal disease. It creates incredible strain on the pet’s vascular system and in turn their vital organs making them work harder and less effective.
– It is also known that increased weight can develop cancers within your pet. Cancer treatment isn’t always effective and can impact your pet’s life span and quality of life.
If you are ever concerned regarding your pets’ weight, please seek veterinary assistance. Westway Vets offer free weight clinics which is with a nurse and they can help you modify their diet plan, exercise routine, and keep them on target to a healthy weight goal.

The pet food Manufacturers’ association have a wide range of articles and information available to assist you
http://www.pfma.org.uk/