In a previous practice life, I used to run a pet weight loss program that the nurses endearingly referred to as ‘Flynn’s Fat Friends’. This was named after Flynn, our delightful but somewhat self-indulgent Burmese clinic cat. He had a habit of chewing a hole in the corner of the largest (and most expensive) dog-food bag that he could find and then helping himself to the contents. Given that he lived in a veterinary clinic, these weren’t hard for him to find. The end result was twofold: I was a lot poorer as I couldn’t sell that food, and we also struggled constantly to keep Flynn’s weight under control! Despite all of that, he long outlasted me in that practice and lived to the ripe old age of 18, although many Burmese owners might say that this is relatively young for the breed.
This brings me to my current topic – Pet Obesity. It’s a well-known fact that obesity is one of the major issues facing the human medical profession but did you know there’s a pet obesity problem of an equal magnitude?
In pets, obesity is generally defined as being at least 20% overweight.
- In people, we use the BMI index (body mass index) to rate human body condition.
- This index doesn’t work in dogs and cats due to the wide variety of shapes and sizes
- For our purposes, we would use an excess of 20% or more as an indicator of obesity
Pet obesity is common
- Most vets I know would agree that the majority of their patients would be overweight with something like 20-30% also being in the obese category.
- You may not think an excess of 5kg is much to worry about but if your dogs’ ideal weight is only 20 kg to start with then that’s well and truly in the obese category.
- I examined a Dachshund quite recently that weighed over 13kg (the owners told me he’d been up to 18kg not that long ago) and I estimated his ideal weight to be approximately 8kg. That’s a whopping 60% overweight even at the new, improved fighting weight of 13kg!!
Cats are just as prone as dogs to get too chubby
- Every day, we’d see a 5+kg cat on a 4kg frame
- This is particularly true of indoor cats
There are many problems caused by obesity including heart disease, arthritis and diabetes
- I mentioned in a recent article that excess weight is a major contributing factor in arthritis but the additional burden caused by pumping blood around an overweight body can cause heart failure in dogs and cats
- Try running around the local oval with a 15kg backpack on and see how your joints feel after a few minutes of exercise
- Carrying excess weight also makes it more difficult to exercise and so the issue just snowballs over time
- Diabetes is common in older cats and, along with breed disposition, weight is a significant component of this disease.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however, as we run a very good pet slimmers program at Gawler Animal Hospital!
- This is run by our consulting nurses and is very effective in helping owners get their pets back to a much better condition
- The program involves regular (complimentary) visits to measure and weigh your pet.
- We use specific diets that we know work well and keep your pet healthy and happy
‘George’ Zammit is one of our recent stars to benefit from the slimmers program
- George is a one-year-old pug owned by Mel Zammit
- He started out at 9.5kg in March and is already well on the way to his target weight of 8.5kg – well done Mel and George!
Even better is Harry Phillips who’s lost almost 7kgs in the last 9 months!
- Owned by Michelle Phillips, Harry started out at 33.4kg in September and is now down to 26.6kg
- He still has another 1kg to go but that’s already over 25% off his starting point!!
- The owners of both George and Harry report that the dogs are much livelier and seem to have a new lease on life as a result of the weight-loss.
What should I do next?
If you think your four-legged friend has put on a bit too much winter flubber, you should probably book an appointment to see us. As mentioned, this is not just a cosmetic issue but can come with a number of serious consequences. Our consult nurses Beth and Georgie are fantastic when it comes to helping you work towards a better weight for your pets and in getting them back to a better body shape. Like most diseases (and we’d consider obesity a disease in itself), the sooner we get started on treating weight problems, the better the response we get and the less your pet will have to suffer. So give us a call on 8522 3500 so that we can get your pet back to ‘Super Model’ status! Alternatively, book an appointment directly through our website.