Keeping your pet happy and healthy is really important, and for our pets, just like us, prevention is better than cure. Overfeeding and/or lack of exercise lead to obesity in pets, which in turn can lead to severe health problems. The Mayhew Animal Home’s Chief Vet, Ursula Goetz MRCVS, GPCert (SAS) gives some top tips on how to keep your dog or cat in shape and healthy.
What does obesity cause?
Obesity is a serious condition that can lead to potentially fatal fatty liver disease, diabetes, non-allergenic skin conditions and urinary tract disorders in cats. For dogs it can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, joint problems, exercise intolerance respiratory distress and diabetes. These problems cause your pet intense discomfort, pain, depression, lethargy and can even lead to death.
Keep a watch on your pet’s size and weight, and speak to your vet about how to help your pet get back in shape healthily if they start to pile on the pounds.
What should I feed my pet?
A balanced diet is important to ensure they receive the full range of nutrients. Most pet foods that are available to buy provide the complete range of nutrients your pet needs, so feeding them additional food is usually unnecessary and some foods may even be harmful. Providing clean drinking water at all times is also essential.
How often should I feed my pet?
Both dogs and cats should generally receive two meals every day. However, if you give your cat dry food throughout the day as well, then you should deduct this from the any food given at ‘meal time’, as cats can be prone to overeating, especially when bored.
What foods should I avoid?
CATS: Never feed dog food to a cat as they have different nutritional needs. There is a common misconception that cats need milk but in actual fact cow’s milk is not tolerated well by many cats and can often cause diarrhoea.
DOGS: Beware of certain human foods which are dangerous to them such as grapes, raw onions, raisins and chocolate.
How can I treat my pet without overfeeding them?
We often use treats as a way of rewarding our pets during training or for good behaviour, especially dogs. This can have a positive effect on behaviour but treats should be given sparingly and try to stick to healthy ones if you can. A treat also doesn’t always have to be food – some pets can even respond better to a play reward in training if that’s their prime motivation. Just like us, every pet is different!
What about exercise?
Cats should have plenty of room to run around and outside access to a garden is desirable. Make sure you spend time playing with your cat every day and leave some interesting ‘puzzle’ toys to keep them busy when you are out.
Dogs need lots of daily exercise to keep them mentally and physically stimulated. Long walks and exercise is essential every day – even if it’s cold and wet outside, your dog still needs exercise. Just think of the health benefits you’ll be getting at the same time!