More and more animal companions in Germany are overweight. 50 percent of dogs and cats are overweight because of treats and too little exercise.  Many pet owners think they are doing their four-legged friend a favor by giving them lots of treats, and some think it’s cute to have a chubby cat or a chubby dog. But this often has serious health and psychological consequences for the animal lover.
Here you can learn why obesity is a health risk and how your dog or cat can best lose weight.
What are the causes of obesity?
Obesity occurs when energy intake exceeds energy requirements. Excess energy not used through exercise or metabolism is stored as fat. Since our animal companions do not take care of themselves, the responsibility for overweight animals falls on the owner – often due to unconscious misbehavior.
For example, the dog’s treats are not included in his daily caloric needs, or he is offered too much food because he begs at the table or has a big appetite.
Even unsuitable food, such as table scraps or puppy food for adult or elderly animals, can quickly exceed a dog’s energy requirements. The need for exercise is often underestimated in indoor cats and also in smaller dogs. Even foods that are always available, such as a bowl of dry food, can quickly lead to obesity. Castrated animals are particularly sensitive and the amount of food offered should be adjusted after the procedure.
Of course, there are also animals whose excess weight is not the fault of the owner. This can be due to diseases or obesity during the growth phase, for example. Genetics also play a role. For example, Labradors and Greyhounds tend to be overweight. But especially then the pet owner must do something about the health of his/her beloved four-legged friend, because obesity can lead to serious diseases and health damage.
Effects on animal health
Overweight dogs and cats are often restricted in their mobility and lose the joy of movement. They sleep more and often suffer from shortness of breath. Physical hygiene, “cleaning”, often cannot be carried out correctly or sufficiently, something from which cats especially suffer. Especially in the so-called torture breeds, obesity quickly becomes a health problem and worsens existing symptoms.
The serious health consequences of obesity are also:
- cardiovascular diseases
- Metabolic diseases such as liver problems
- Musculoskeletal disorders such as joint problems
- skin diseases
- bladder infections
- Weak immune system
- Increased risk of anesthesia
- Respiratory problems
When is my dog or cat overweight?
You can easily “feel” if your pet is overweight. Gently touch your dog or cat to see if you can still feel the ribs. Although these should not be visible, they should be easy to feel without much pressure.
If you look at your animal from the side, you can also see if the belly is slightly raised as in animals of normal weight, or if it hangs down.
In overweight animals, the skin on the neck and shoulder is often thick and swollen. the animal may have fat deposits at the base of the tail and in the groin. In cats, fat tends to accumulate in the back of the abdomen. Severely overweight dogs and cats are literally round. You have no visible waist.
A veterinarian can also determine if the animal is overweight. They can also create a good and appropriate feeding plan together with pet owners.
What is the best way for my dog to lose weight?
Before putting your dog on a voluntary diet, a vet should check that no other medical conditions are preventing weight loss. If all is well, you can get rid of your four-legged friend’s extra pounds by slowly reducing the calorie intake as agreed and carefully getting the animal used to more exercise.
- Ask a veterinarian to draw up a suitable feeding plan for you.
- Encourage the animal to move more – for example, playfully looking for food instead of food in the bowl.
- Long walks with the dog or playing in the fresh air increase energy consumption.
- In households with many animals, it makes sense to feed the four-legged friends in separate rooms. In this way, one animal does not take away food from another.
- In older animals, the metabolism often runs a little slower. Increasing the amount of plant food or special food for the elderly, which is usually lower in energy, can make a valuable contribution to weight loss.
How can I slim my cat again?
Before changing the diet, a veterinarian should also clarify if and how this is possible and if there are other causes for obesity. Get a blood test for this. If your cat is clinically healthy, help her lose weight.
- Ask a veterinarian to draw up a suitable feeding plan.
- Get more exercise by playing a lot with your cat.
- Combine feeding with catch toys and drop the dry food to your cat. I’m sure she would love to “chase” them.
- If there are several cats, you should provide the animals with their food in separate rooms, so that each cat eats only the portion intended for it.
- Many outdoor cats receive treats from other households. Talk to your neighbors and ask them to stop providing food for your cat
More advice on dog and cat nutrition
With all these tips, your four-legged friend will surely soon reach a normal weight and be able to roam happily again. If neither reducing food nor increasing exercise achieves the desired results, you should consult a veterinarian.