The festive season is a time of joy and celebration and is often paired with lots of scrumptious snacks. Pet-lovers tend to want to share the indulgence of tasty treats, especially when pooches give the ‘puppy dog eyes’, and will often give in to our four-legged friends and offer extra food. For National Obesity Awareness Week (10-16 January), PDSA Vet Nurse, Nina Downing, shares top tips for recognising whether your pet is the correct weight.
Nina said: “Whilst it can be hard to resist the gaze of our four-legged friends, it’s important to ensure we don’t overfeed our pets. Being a healthy weight and shape will improve your pet’s quality of life as they can enjoy walks and activity which, in turn, improves their mental health and it can delay the onset of long-term diseases, helping them to live longer. If your pets have had a treat-filled festive season, it’s important to recognise if they have gained some extra weight around the edges.”
How to recognise if your pet is a healthy shape
Your pet’s body shape will give you an idea of whether they’re carrying too much weight. You can find this out by doing a simple check at home, called a ’body condition score’.
Take a good look and feel of your dog, cat, or rabbit’s body – the following will help you tell if they are a healthy weight:
- Run your hands along your pet’s sides. The skin should move freely over the ribs, which you should be able to feel with a light touch.
- Run your hands along your pet’s back. You should be able to feel the spine and hipbones under the skin without being able to see them – they shouldn’t be sticking out.
- Gently feel the base of your pet’s tail, there shouldn’t be a build-up of fat where the tail joins the spine.
- Feel under your pet’s tummy, it should go in, not bulge out.
- Look at your pet from the side and from above. You should be able to see a waist. If not, your dog, cat, or rabbit may be overweight.
Knowing your pet’s body condition score helps you to identify if they need to lose some weight, put some on, or if they’re the perfect weight, but it’s also important to know your pet’s current weight. Together with their body condition score, you can then work out what their ideal weight should be for their breed, build, and size. Once you know the weight that they should be, you have something to aim for and, by making sure you weigh them regularly, you can quickly spot if their weight changes, and then tweak their diet and exercise to correct it. You can visit your vet and ask them if you can use their scales to weigh larger dogs, but small dogs, cats, and rabbits can be weighed at home quite easily using bathroom scales.
Nina added: “It can feel like a big challenge to get a pet to lose weight but, trust us, it’s worth it and isn’t that difficult – I promise! Once your pet has reached their ideal size and shape, they will be healthier, happier, and more active. They will also have the best chance of living a long, healthy life. If you are struggling with your pet’s weight, contact your vet for help and advice.”
PDSA is working in partnership with Royal Canin to help tackle obesity in pets. Throughout February and March 2023, we’ll be encouraging pet owners to have their pets weighed, and their body condition scored, at their local vets to help guide them to a healthy weight.
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