Pet obesity is a serious and growing problem. In severe cases, obesity can cause life-long illnesses or even prove to be fatal.
Overweight and obese pets are more likely to suffer from osteoarthritis, heart disease and respiratory problems. In some cases, they may even become diabetic and require life-long treatments that have an impact on their general quality of life.
Watch the waist: Weight will vary from individual dog and cat. The best way to monitor your pet’s weight is by observing their waist. Ideally, the waist should be defined and have a somewhat hour-glass shape.
Knuckle knowledge: Working out whether your pet is over or underweight can be done by running your fingers across your knuckles and comparing it with the surface of your pet’s rib cage. If the surface of your knuckles when you hand is clenched are the same as your pet’s rib cage, this can mean your pet is underweight. If the rib cage however feels more like the padded area on the inside of your hand, this can mean your pet is overweight. Ideally, the rib cage should feel like the surface of your knuckles when your hand is flat and fingers are spread open.
Balance input with output: Keep a daily record of what you’re feeding your pet and the duration of exercise he or she is getting. Give this to your vet, who will use it to measure weight loss progress.
Scrap out scraps: Make a concerted effort not to toss scraps onto the floor for your pets.
The law of gravity: Keep in mind cats — particularly those who spend most of their time indoors — will naturally form a flat and saggy belly as they get older. This is completely normal and does not mean the cat is obese.
High-risk pets: Labradors and ragdolls are commonly seen to have weight problems. It is easy to avoid this if you follow a carefully crafted diet and exercise plan.
Visit your vet: Explain your concerns to your vet and discuss the options for dieting and resetting your dog or cat’s metabolism. Your vet will help you evaluate your pet’s weight and give you an idea of how much weight needs to be lost.
Signs to watch out for: Intolerance to exercise, shortness of breath, lack of energy and enthusiasm, longer sleeping and napping times.
Resources: Consider personal training with your dog. Visit www.dogshome.com/shaping-up/ or consult your vet to develop a specialised diet and exercise program.
Common food and plants toxic to pets
A number of common plants and foods are toxic to pets, and some can even cause death. New poisons are also being discovered each year. Things to avoid include:
Grapes: These can cause renal failure in dogs, which means that the kidneys fail to filter waste products from the blood.
Macadamias: Dogs can develop muscle tremors and weakness or paralysis of their back legs, causing distress and pain. Most dogs will recover well, but it is a very painful experience.
Onions and garlic: Both contain a toxin known as thiosulphate, which is potentially fatal for both dogs and cats. Garlic contains a smaller amount and would need to be eaten in large quantities for it to have an effect, whereas small amounts of onion can cause health issues. Affected pets will develop a condition called haemolytic anaemia, which means they have a reduced number of red blood cells and therefore have limited oxygen carried through their body.
Lilies: All parts of the lily are potentially toxic to cats and even the smallest amount can cause acute renal failure. Any exposure to lilies, including just licking the pollen from their coats or drinking the water that the lilies are in, can cause toxicity and should be treated immediately.
Cocoa: Cocoa contains a compound called theobromine, which is a cardiac stimulant and diuretic. If ingested, it can increase or create an irregular heartbeat, which can be potentially fatal.
If you think you pet has consumed anything hazardous, it is crucial to seek immediate attention at your local vet or animal emergency centre, as their condition could rapidly deteriorate.
For more information about foods that are toxic to pets, visit petdoctor.com.au