Help Your pet get in Shape for New Year

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With 2021 here many people will be thinking about getting in better shape in the New Year. It’s also a great time for your pet to join in too!

Research from the latest PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report found 8% of owners stated their dog gained weight during lockdown – potentially affecting 790,000 dogs – while 6% of cat owners said their pet gained weight, with 17% overall admitting to giving their feline friends more treats. This worrying trend can also be seen in rabbit owners, with 14% confessing to feeding more treats in lockdown than before. So January is a good time to check your pet’s body shape and take action if necessary.

PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing said: “Excess weight can lead to serious health problems including arthritis, back problems and breathing problems, particularly for flat-faced breeds, as well as reducing your pet’s lifespan. Too many calories and not enough exercise cause weight gain but, with some simple changes, owners can get their pet’s weight under control.”

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, cats and rabbits.

Nina added: “When you stroke your pet you should be able to just feel your pet’s ribs and spine under their skin,, but they shouldn’t be sticking out. If you have to press down to feel them, then 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, so you’ll need to smooth down their fur to see if they have this shape underneath.”

The assessment is called Body Condition Scoring and is really useful to help you figure out if your pet is the right weight.

Nina said: “If you think your pet’s overweight, take them for a check-up before starting them on a diet. Your vet can check for any underlying health issues that could be causing weight gain. Losing weight too quickly can make pets ill, especially for cats and rabbits, and reducing portion size too much could lead to pets not getting enough nutrients to stay healthy. Your vet or vet nurse can work out the weight your pet should be. They’ll review your pet’s current diet and tailor a plan for safe weekly weight-loss, which will include a manageable exercise plan too.”

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

  • Weigh out food – with scales! Each day weigh out the daily allowance of food, following the feeding guidelines on the packaging, or your vet’s advice.
  • If your pet’s used to treats, take a small handful of their daily allowance of kibble and put it to one side to use instead of treats.
  • Watch out for hidden calories – chews sold to prevent dental disease can significantly increase your pet’s calorie intake. Brushing teeth twice a day is much more effective and has significantly less calories!
  • Increase exercise – it’s important to ensure pets stay active – whatever the weather. Dogs need at least one walk a day, but if they’re very over weight it’s much better to do shorter but more frequent walks. Cats enjoy playing hunting-style games using fishing rod-type toys. If your pet’s older or struggling with exercise ask your vet for advice.

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. www.pdsa.org.uk

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