Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight

The latest pet ownership statistics show that there are 29 million pets in Australia. Of this number, dogs and cats represent 8.9 million of Australia’s pets.  

It is estimated that over 40% of our pets are overweight. This is a staggering 3.56 million overweight dogs and cats Australia-wide.

Being overweight or obese is a driver for chronic health conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and arthritis to name but a few.

Each pet is metabolically different, and their age, breed, size and activity levels can all have an impact on their metabolism and how much food they should eat to maintain a healthy weight. Puppies and kittens will need to eat a lot more as they are growing and active, than they will when they reach adulthood or begin to slow down in their senior years.

All complete pet food labels in Australia come with a feeding guide. This feeding guide has been scientifically designed to meet the nutritional needs of your pet such as age, breed etc. Two pets of the same age, weight and activity level can have different intake requirements to maintain a healthy weight. Just like humans a one-size-fits-all model doesn’t exist.

Being able to identify what a healthy weight looks like for your pet, will help you to manage their weight throughout the course of their life. For short-coated animals, this is easy to keep track of visually using a body condition score chart.

Keeping your pet within a healthy weight range is the easiest and most proactive thing that you can do, as a pet owner, to keep them healthy.

If you notice your pet has put on a few extra centimetres around the middle, we have some simple tips for weight-loss.

  • Making sure you’re feeding them a pet food that’s appropriate for their breed, age, stage of life and activity level.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s diet and if it needs a change. Pet foods higher in fibre can be an option in this instance as they help your pet feel fuller for longer without the metabolic impacts of a higher calorie diet.
  • Watch how you use treats where possible. If you’re choosing to use a large volume of treats for your training goals with your pet, then decrease the amount of food they are getting at meal times to balance out their overall diet.
  • Consider their exercise regimen; if they haven’t been as active as usual, this will likely impact their weight.

If you want to understand more about pet food, understanding  pet food labels and choosing the best food for your pet throughout their life, you may be interested in understanding potential safety risks in pet food ingredients here (link to https://pfiaa.com.au/contaminants-residues-and-ingredients-with-safety-risks-in-pet-food).

In some less-common cases, weight gain that cannot be attributed to any change in diet or lifestyle can be associated with a medical condition so always reach out to your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your pet’s health and wellbeing.

References:

McGreevy PD, Thomson PC, Pride C, Fawcett A, Grassi T, Jones B. Prevalence of obesity in dogs examined by Australian veterinary practices and the risk factors involved. Vet Rec. 2005;156(22):695-702. doi:10.1136/vr.156.22.695

Alexander J. German, The Growing Problem of Obesity in Dogs and Cats, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 136, Issue 7, 1 July 2006, Pages 1940S–1946S, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/136.7.1940S