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New Year's Resolutions Series: 1. Tackling obesity

You may think your pet is in good shape, but when was the last time you checked their weight or body condition score? In our New Year's Resolutions series, we'll talk about four key goals to enrich your cat or dog's life – and the first one is dealing with obesity.

In PSDA's 2018 Animal Wellbeing Report, veterinary professionals agree that pet obesity is a recurring health issue for pets in the UK. This nutritional disorder is caused by the combination of too many calories and not enough activity. The excess weight puts pressure on your pet's joints and organs, gradually decreasing your pet's quality of life.

But however common obesity may be in cats and dogs, the good news is it's very preventable. 

Factors that contribute to weight gain

So what are the habits that (excuse the pun!) feed into the problem?

  • Too many meal scraps, snacks and treats
  • An energy-dense, high-fat diet
  • A well-balanced diet without proper portion control
  • Insufficient exercise to burn off excess energy

It seems some cats and dogs may be more prone to gaining weight, too. For example, recent discoveries suggest Labradors are genetically predisposed to being hungry. Moreover, your pet's metabolism can slow down with age (as with senior pets), certain metabolic disorders (like hypothyroidism) or surgery (such as spaying and neutering). 

So being informed will allow you to provide the best care for your pet and prevent complications. The takeaway message is that, regardless of your pet's condition, there is always a way to boost their quality of life.

Healthy solutions

The effects of your pet becoming overweight may not be noticeable straight away, but if not handled correctly, obesity can cause several problems: from to type 2 diabetes to reduced life expectancy.

A good place to start is diet: check the feeding guide on your pet's food labels to make sure you're feeding them the right portions. Remember to checks treats, too. And while you should continue to give your furry friend those delicious snacks they love – always stick to a sensible limit. Choosing healthier or low-calorie alternatives can also help.

Likewise, selecting a formula for your pet's life stage, breed or condition is a great way of ensuring they're getting the nutrients they need. For example, a weight-loss formula may be higher in protein and low in carbohydrates.

If you suspect your cat or pup is overweight, your vet can make a diagnosis based on factors like body weight and body condition score (BCS). They'll also help with setting a target weight and offering a weight management diet that works for your furry friend.

Exercise is the second part of our healthy-weight equation. Even if your pet is eating a balanced diet, animals that do not exercise regularly will inevitably gain weight. Therefore, it's important to walk your dog at least 30 minutes a day and play with your cat a few times daily – especially if they stay indoors. Dogs with high energy levels may need to exercise longer (up to two hours every day). 

Our next blog in the series is dedicated to exercise, so stay tuned for tips on how to keep your pooch and kitty active. In the meantime, we hope you've found the first part of our series interesting. And remember that when it comes to resolutions, any step towards feeling better counts.