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When it comes to our pets, it is easy to want to make sure they are kept happy by feeding them lots of yummy treats and pet food – but does your pet seem to be gaining too much weight in the process?
In fact, how do we tell if our pet is just cute and chubby or if they are actually medically overweight? The first way to check is to see if there seems to be excess padding over your pet’s ribs or if you cannot see a slight tuck-up just in front of the hind legs, chances are that your pet is carrying extra weight.
Some dogs such as Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Boxers, Pugs, Beagles, Cocker Spaniels and Dachshunds are also predisposed to obesity which means it is easier for such breeds to put on excess weight.
Dogs are considered to be overweight when they are 15 percent above their ideal weight, and obese if they are 30 percent above the ideal weight. Cats on the other hand, are overweight when they weigh 10-20 percent more than their expected body weight and is considered obese when their body weight is more than 20 percent above their expected body weight.
So why exactly might your pet be putting on extra weight? Here are three reasons why:
While overfeeding is an obvious reason why your pet might be overweight, it is harder to keep track as to when other family members have given your pet extra treats on the side. It may be worth starting to indicate each time someone gives a treat to your pet by writing on a white board so all family members can keep track.
As a rule of thumb, treats should not exceed more than 10 percent of your pet’s total daily calories.2 Species appropriate table scraps could be part of this 10% and are better than giving starchy, processed dog treats or cookies. An alternative could be to switch to healthy dog treats such as carrots, cucumbers, blueberries and apples (as long as you avoid toxic foods such as grapes and raisins!) or single ingredient dried meat treats.
As tempting as it may be to shower your pet with treats, this can result in them having a shortened lifespan and decreased quality of life if they develop obesity due to the excess in calories.
Feeding your dog kibble or a diet high in carbohydrates may also predispose it to obesity as its body is bombarded with high blood sugar which wreaks havoc on its metabolism. Replacing kibbles partially or totally with a high protein and medium fat complete diet may be recommended and may even make them eat less overall as they are more satiated.
Sometimes it may have nothing to do with the pet food eaten and is simply due to the natural process of ageing. Dogs with hypothyroidism often begin to display symptoms of the disease when they reach 4 to 6 years of age which includes weight gain.
As your pet gets older, they tend to lose muscle over time – something also known as sarcopenia. This loss in muscle mass is typically associated with slower metabolism and decreased digestive efficiency which in turn means easier fat gain. Furthermore, as pets age, they become less active, especially if their joints hurt. This means that they have lower energy requirements than their younger selves. If they are continued to be fed the same amount of pet food as when they were younger, this puts them at a higher risk of gaining weight and developing obesity. These 2 factors are reasons why older dogs and cats tend to put on weight easier than their younger selves. That being said, if your pet is still active as a senior – going for hikes, spending time outdoors or generally more active than pets lounging at home, then there is no need to decrease the amount of pet food fed and increasing protein content may actually be beneficial to muscle retention and a healthy metabolism.
Hypothyroidism refers to when the thyroid gland of your pet is underactive, which means their metabolism slows down and hence, this can lead to weight gain. One of the signs that your dog may have Hypothyroidism is when you notice that they are gaining weight without an increase in appetite. If you notice this happening, it will be best to schedule a visit to the vet to have your fur friend checked because unexplained weight gain can be a symptom of an underlying health issue.
Whenever in doubt, always consult your veterinarian before making any drastic changes to your pet’s diet and to check on any health conditions of your pet.
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