A Healthy Diet After Lockdown

Advice for pet owners

If your pet was getting less exercise and, perhaps, a few more treats over lockdown, now’s the time to check their weight and body shape.

PDSA Vet, Anna Ewers Clark, said: “Lockdown has been a challenging experience for a lot of pets and people, so many of us have wanted to spoil our pets to make up for the restrictions we’ve been living with. Extra treats combined with less exercise means some pets (and their owners!) may have gained a little extra weight.

“Small fluctuations to our pet’s weight can generally be corrected and won’t contribute to serious long-term health issues. But over longer periods, it may lead to serious health problems including arthritis, joint strain, back problems and breathing problems, particularly for flat-faced breeds. Thankfully, getting your pet back down to their ideal weight takes just a few simple changes.”

The starting point for all dog and cat owners is to check your pet’s body shape by gently running your hands down the top and the side of their body.

Anna said: “You should be able to feel your pet’s ribs and spine quite easily when you run your hands through their fur. If you need to press down to feel them, your pet is probably overweight.  A healthy body shape has an ‘hourglass figure’ visible from above, as your pet should tuck in at the waist. It can be trickier to see the hourglass shape in very fluffy dogs or cats, so you’ll need to smooth down their fur to see if they have this shape underneath.”

If you think your pet is overweight, it’s important to get advice from a vet or nurse before starting a diet as losing weight too quickly can make pets ill, especially cats.

Anna’s top tips to help your pets beat the bulge:

  • Weigh out food – with scales! Weigh out the daily allowance of food, following the feeding guidelines on the packaging for your pet’s ideal weight, or your vet’s advice.
  • If your pet’s used to treats, take a small handful of their kibble and put it to one side and use these as treats. Or if you’d like to give them something a bit special, why not try some fruit or vegetable treats as a healthier (but still fun!) alternative.
  • Watch out for hidden calories – Lots of treat are very high in calories even if they seem small. For example, chews sold to prevent dental disease can significantly increase your pet’s calorie intake. Brushing teeth twice a day is much more effective and adds significantly fewer calories!
  • Increase exercise – it’s important to ensure pets stay active whatever the weather. Dogs need at least one walk a day. Cats enjoy playing hunting-style games using fishing rod-type toys. To start with, they might need to be encouraged to start exercising but once they find out how fun it can be to spend time together your pet will often be keen to play! If your pet’s older or struggling with exercise ask your vet for advice on safe ways to exercise

PDSA’s website www.pdsa.org.uk/healthypets has a handy guide for owners to check their pet’s body shape, including helpful pictures on how to check dogs and cats, as well as rabbits plus advice on what to feed and how much exercise they need.

PDSA is the UK’s leading vet charity. We’re on a mission to improve pet wellbeing through prevention, education and treatment. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information.

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