Is your cat getting fat? Tackling the pet obesity problem

Obesity is one of the biggest health challenges facing the human race, but it’s a growing problem for our pets too. According to new research, pet obesity levels have risen for the sixth straight year in the US.

The report from pet insurance provider Nationwide reveals that its members filed 1.3 million claims for pet obesity-related diseases in 2015. Over the last three years, this type of claim has risen by 23%.

There is evidence that the problem is growing in the UK too, with Animal Friends pet insurance recently reporting a 312% increase in cases of arthritis in dogs. Experts believe that weight problems are behind the growing prevalence of other animal health conditions such as arthritis.

Obesity-related problems

Obese golden Labrador lays on the kitchen tiles with tongue out

Both cats and dogs are at risk of a variety of health problems if they develop excessive body fat. Nationwide found that arthritis is the most common obesity-related condition in dogs, while bladder or urinary tract disease has emerged as the most likely ailment for overweight cats.

Other obesity-related conditions commonly seen in cats include chronic kidney disease, diabetes, asthma and liver disease. Obese dogs can suffer from urinary tract problems just like their feline counterparts, as well as low thyroid hormone production, liver disease and torn knee ligaments.

Carol McConnell, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer at Nationwide, said it is important for people to look after their pet’s weight by giving them a healthy diet and plenty of exercise. “The new year presents a perfect opportunity to create regular exercise routines for our pets and begin to effectively manage their eating habits to avoid excess weight.”

Giving pets excess or inappropriate food is the main reason for obesity, but a lack of exercise can be a major factor too. It’s important to keep your pet active – and that usually means more than just a quick walk round the block if you’re a dog owner. Remember that certain breeds have a higher risk of obesity as well. Labradors and Golden Retrievers, as well as Pugs, are some of the breeds that are more likely to be overweight.

How to check your pet’s weight

white and brown spaniel enjoying the beach

Of course, it’s always a good idea to consult your vet if you’re concerned your pet is putting on too many pounds. However, you can also carry out a few simple weight checks at home. According to the RSPCA:

  • You should be able to see and feel the outline of the ribs without excess fat covering
  • You should be able to see and feel your pet’s waist (and it should be clearly visible from above)
  • Your animal’s belly should be tucked up when viewed from the side

The charity advises getting in touch with your vet if your pet does not pass these checks.

Exercise tips to help prevent obesity

Golden Labrador in harness going for a walk in the grass

Everyone knows that dogs need daily exercise, so make a good walk part of your routine – and stick to it! You can make walking your pooch easier, especially if you have a big and powerful dog, with an Easy Walk® Deluxe Harness or EasySport™ Harness from PetSafe® Brand.

Simple games like fetch are perfect for helping your dog exercise and you can even play it inside if you have enough room. For really energetic dogs, you could consider a regular organised activity such as agility classes or flyball – a fun and increasingly popular sport in which teams of dogs compete against each other.

Unlike our canine companions, cats have the advantage of a high metabolism that works even when they’re lounging around in their favourite spot. But that doesn’t mean they don’t benefit from a mild workout every day. If your cat stays inside all the time, it’s particularly important to make sure they stay active. Many vets believe indoor cats don’t get enough exercise.

Playing with your cat for 30 minutes or so each day is a great way to promote exercise. Toys like the FroliCat® DART™ Automatic Rotating Laser Light can also help – and even encourage your cat to stay active when you’re not around.

Are you concerned by pet obesity? And do you have any special exercise tips for fellow cat or dog owners? Let us know in the comments.

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