Loving our pets sometimes translates into us giving them tasty treats; how can you resist those puppy dog eyes? As it turns out, however, this can actually be hurting our furry friends more than helping. Pet obesity is a growing concern, with rates having steadily increased over the past eight years. Dr. Rebecca Greenstein, the Chief Veterinarian at Kleinberg Veterinary Hospital, weighs in on the matter—see what we did there?—in the video clip above.
What is pet obesity?
Recently classified by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association as an official disease, obesity is the most common preventable illness in North American pets. What’s more, all this extra weight isn’t only adding pressure to their joints, but also your wallets. Obesity related insurance claims in 2017 alone topped $69-million – ruh roh.
How is it being treated?
Identifying and treating overweight pets is a big part of what vets do, as well as finding the appropriate dietary plan fit for each animal. Just like humans, there is no “one size fits all” – instead, vets use a body condition scoring system to appropriately determine how to treat each pet. This system assigns a number from 1 to 9 based on a number of physical parameters like fat deposit patterns and whether or not a ‘waist’ is present. If your pet is assigned a score between 7 and 9, the little furball needs to lose weight! This assessment will help your vet determine how to tweak the diet for a happier and healthier pet.
These modifications can look different for each pet, but in some cases they will be placed on a specific weight control food and some just need to be fed less of their usual diet. Just like our diets, to reach a weight goal, it’s important not to cheat. This includes avoiding giving your pet treats that are high in calories or fat, or those table scraps that they love so much. Sorry pup – no amount of begging is going to work here!
Prevention is key
Keeping your pet at a healthy weight is a sure-fire way to make sure they are happy. Check out these easy steps so that you can avoid pet obesity!
Measure out their food
This is key and the most commonly overlooked step.
‘Meal feeding’ vs. ‘free feeding’
Meal feeding is a better option since it gives you more control and awareness of portion sizes and a better assessment of appetite, hunger, and eating habits. It’s very difficult to get free-feeding pets, especially cats, to lose weight. Smaller frequent meals may be preferable to help a pet feel full (just like us!), but just remember what the total amount per day should be and divide that into X number of meals.
Track treat calories closely
Remember that not all treats are not created equal, so check the bag to see if a treat is 2 calories or a secret calorie bomb. Some treats are over 150 calories each and people are giving them several times a day.
Avoid table scraps
For example, one tablespoon of peanut butter is over 80 calories!
Adjust calorie intake as necessary
Depending on age, life stage and activity level, you need to adjust your pet’s caloric intake to keep them at a healthy weight.
If you’re interested in adopting sisters Faith and Vida and/or Dylan the guinea pig or want to see all of the animals currently available for adoption, visit the Ontario SPCA website at www.ontariospca.ca/peac.