Weight gain or obesity is a common problem in cats, dogs and rabbits. Weight gain occurs when there is an accumulation of excess energy which is stored as fat; this happens when a pet is given more calories then they need. Weight gain can cause many problems including poor mobility, inability to groom themselves, and lethargy. More seriously it can cause diseases like diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, high blood pressure and cancer. By managing your pets weight you are prolonging their life expectancy and improving their quality of life.
Weight management can be easy to monitor with regular weight checks and consultations with a nurse to assess body condition. Like people, cats, dogs and rabbits are all a little bit different size and shape wise, even if they are the same species or breed; what is normal for one animal may be completely wrong for another. This is where the body condition system works well as this assesses their over all condition looking at their shape and fat coverage, as well as checking to see if they have an identifiable waist and whether the ribs are palpable. The scales will monitor weight loss in numbers and show if the animal is losing weight.
When an animal enters a new life stage their daily energy requirement changes. Puppies and kittens require a much higher calorie intake to help with growth and development. As a puppy and kitten gets older this requirement decreases. After an animal is neutered their metabolism changes again, and they need fewer calories; this is one of the most common causes of obesity. It is important when your animal has been neutered to either adjust the amount of food being fed or change to a lower calorie diet. Older or senior pets also need fewer calories as they become less active, and they find digesting complex sugars and starches harder, therefore senior pets benefit to being on a specific senior diet or a lower calorie diet.
As well as diet exercise is essential to weight loss. Making sure your cat, dog or rabbit is receiving an appropriate amount of exercise is key to manage their weight and condition and overall happiness. Cats are notorious for being a bit of a challenge in this area as they pretty much do what they want! However there are many tricks and games you can use to encourage them to move and play. Rabbits should be given the opportunity to exercise especially if their normal environment is a hutch,it is good husbandry to have a run or area where you can let them run and explore. With dogs, it is all about managing their walks and play time; depending on their life stage or health status you can create a healthy routine of walks which will help make them more active.
At Ashman Jones we are offering weight clinics which are held by one of our nurses Hayley. This provides the opportunity to have your pet weighed and to have their body condition score assessed. This then provides an idea of what stage your pet is at and how much weight they need to lose (if any!). We then ask you to provide details of everything your pet gets food wise on a daily basis, in a diary format which includes how much in grams they are getting a day. We then compare this to their daily energy requirement, which will tell us how many calories your pet needs a day to live their normal life happily and healthily, without overindulging. With this information we can adjust the amount of food they are getting or recommend a new diet which will be better suited for them. It is then important to bring your pet back for regular weight checks to assess their progress and and make any changes if necessary. The weight clinics are also offered to owners that are concerned about weight loss, as this is an equally important aspect to monitor. If you are part of our Best Friends Club these clinics are free, or they are £15 as a normal nurse consult. If you are interested in coming to a weight clinic please give us a call on 01225 446269 and book an appointment with Hayley.