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How To Manage Your Pet’s Weighty Problems

By David Loneragan | Dated September 17, 2015

As in people, weight problems in pets are an increasing problem. Some dogs and cats are overweight for medical reasons, but most obesity is due to them eating more calories than needed and the excess calories are stored as body fat. Many owners feed their pets too much as a way of showing affection and love, so inadvertently pet owners are often the cause of the weight problem!

Overweight pets are at risk of health problems such as diabetes mellitus and arthritis so their lifespan may be shortened. If you feel your pet is heavier than they should be, it is best to see your vet who will go through the following points:

1. Establish a Weight Loss Plan

Your vet will do a thorough examination, including weighing them. They then rule out any medical conditions that can cause obesity. Next they determine the ideal body weight for the breed and age of your pet and calculate how much weight should be lost. The weight loss goal must be realistic, long term and achievable for the pet and owner.

A good goal is 1-2% of body weight lost per week and it is part of a “Weight Loss Plan”. It can take 3-6 months to achieve the goal weight and for the pet to stay healthy in the long term. The Weight Loss Plan will involve diet, feeding times, exercise and regular weight checks.

2. Diet 

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A specially formulated nutrition for dogs, cats is the best way for your pet to lose weight.

A specially formulated weight loss food is the best way for your pet to lose weight. These foods are lower in fat and calories and often higher in protein and fibre, so your pet does not go hungry. e.g. Hill’s Prescription Diet. It is important to feed the recommended amount, accurately measured out.

The feeding of table scraps must be eliminated and any treats factored into the overall daily caloric intake. If your pet is fed by multiple household members (or neighbourhood!) it is important they adhere to the diet or all your effort will go to waste!

3. Type of feeding

The Weight Loss Plan calculates the total number of calories to be fed per day. This should then be divided into two to four smaller meals. Feeding pets more than once a day boosts their metabolism and stops them becoming too hungry and begging for treats!

Ad lib (free choice) feeding should be stopped as it encourages pets to eat when bored and not just hungry, thereby encouraging weight gain. Automatic feeders that release a set amount of food per meal are helpful if you are not home to feed all the meals. In a multi pet household, always feed pets separately so you know how much has been eaten by whom!

4. Exercise 

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It is important that your pet exercises to use up calories.

In addition to reducing calorie intake, it is important that your pet exercises to use up calories. At least 30 minutes of activity each day is recommended for dogs and cats.

For dogs with joint problems, swimming is a great alternative. Exercise for cats can be harder, but toys to play with and chase are helpful. If you don’t have time to walk your dog regularly, there are many experienced dog walkers available for hire.

5. Monitor Progress

It is important to weigh your pet every two weeks during their Weight Loss Plan. This is best done at the vet and provides encouragement to keep going, as the programme may take several months. If your pet is not losing weight, the daily calories may be restricted further. Always ensure that no one in the house is cheating by giving the pet extra food or treats!

A good way to help you through the weight loss process is to take a ‘before’ diet photo, some during the weight loss and one at its conclusion. This provides lots of encouragement. Once the ideal weight is reached, it is important to continue weighing and monitoring your pet for any future change in weight.
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Written by David Loneragan

David grew up and still lives locally and has worked at Gordon Vet since 1985. His love of animals and interest in all things veterinary started when he was a young boy spending time with his own pets and working on a country farm. David’s post-graduate studies have been in the fields of medical problems of dogs and cats and diagnostic ultrasound and radiology. In addition, he is interested in dermatology, cardiology and ophthalmology.

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Lihong Xing
Lihong Xing
05:00 05 Nov 18
Highly recommend Dr David, Scott, Helen, and Catherine, I've taken my cat to see all the doctors here.
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Vishal Kapoor
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Really amazing staff members. Their systems and processes are also very
Arezu A
Arezu A
03:20 15 Feb 18
Absolutely love the service here. I switched from other Vets to this Vet as the staff here are quite attentive and really care about your furry baby! I have basically seen most of the Dr's here and all of them so far have been fantastic, friendly and fun to speak with! Easy to locate and enough parking available! 5 Stars indeed!
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Gerry Stevens
11:01 14 Jul 18
Good competant vet. Did what I needed. Staff friendly. Cat's well.
Jeremy Tarbox
Jeremy Tarbox
22:55 10 Sep 18
We found a stray, agitated dog in front of our house last night. We phoned but got no help from the Council ranger who gave two options: tie him up in front yard overnight or "let him loose, he'll find his own way home" :( So we phoned Gordon Vet: they stayed open a few minutes so we could run him up and he could have a bed and dinner. Thank you Gordon Vet Hospital, hope he gets home soon!!! :)
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