The lighter way to help your pets get in shape
Are you pets in need of slimming down? Our 5 top tips can help
January is traditionally the time of year when we’re all planning to up our exercise and eat more healthily to ditch those post-Christmas pounds – but what about our pets?
According to PDSA’s PAW report 2022, many devoted pet owners are in denial about their pet’s weight, stating: “Despite clinical studies which have found that up to 65% of dogs are obese or overweight, 82% of dog owners told us that their dog was the ideal weight and 78% of cat owners and 87% of rabbit owners told us the same. Less than 1% of dog owners and only 1% of rabbit and cat owners described their pet as obese.”
How to tell if your pet is carrying a little too much timber
- In general, dogs who are at a healthy weight have an ‘hourglass’ figure when looked down upon from above. The abdomen should be narrower than the chest and hips and they should look ‘tucked up’, which means that a dog’s chest is closer to the ground than the belly when he or she is standing. Ribs should not be readily visible but are easily felt with light pressure. Industry body UK Pet Food has a handy Dog Size-O-Meter, which you can check out here >>
- When it comes to cats, Cats Protection advises that “Overweight cats are usually defined as being more than 15% over their ideal weight and obese cats are more than 30% over their ideal weight. You should be able to feel your cat's ribs easily when you stroke their body lightly and you should clearly see a waistline when you look at them from above.” UK Pet Food has Cat Size-O-Meter you can download here >>. International Cat Care also has a useful Body & Muscle Condition Score chart that can help you identify if your cat is very thin, thin, normal, overweight or obese.
- Rabbits who are an ideal weight should have hip bones, ribs and spine that can be easily felt but are rounded, not sharp, no abdominal bulge and a flat rump area. When viewed from above, your rabbit should be shaped like a pear, with slimmer waist and shoulders. If the body looks rectangular and box shaped, your bunny may be carrying excess fat. Check out UK Pet Food’s Rabbit Size-O-Meter here >>
- With other pets – such as guinea pigs, hamsters, ferrets or rats – consult your vet. They’ll be able to tell if your pet is overweight and give you some practical advice on how to help them reach an ideal weight.
5 top tips to help your pets lose weight
Helping your pets reach their ideal weight is really important for their health and wellbeing. Overweight pets are more at risk of developing serious illnesses and diseases and it can also affect everyday activities – from being able to enjoy walkies and playtime to how well they can groom themselves.
Burgess in-house vet, Dr Suzanne Moyes, advises: “Obesity can lead to a variety of different health and wellbeing issues, including osteoarthritis, diabetes, cardiac disease and cancer as well as the inability to exhibit natural behaviours. By consulting your vet, following our top tips and working together with your pets, losing that excess fat could be easier than you think – and your pets will be so much happier and healthier for it.”
- Always weigh out pet food portions
Portion control can make a big difference to managing your pet’s weight. How much your pet needs to eat depends on their age, lifestyle, and health – and accurate weighing of food portions is essential to help your pet lose weight and, once they’ve reached their goal, to maintain a healthy weight.
- Use a kitchen scale to weigh out the correct daily amount of food as outlined on the packaging or use a dry-food measuring cup. Don’t estimate as this is the easiest way to overfeed.
- Place the weighed or measured-out food into a storage container. Whether you feed your pet twice, three times or more a day, take the amount from their daily ration in the container so you’ll know they’re getting just the right amount of food – not too much and not too little.
Remember that treats should be just that – something special, fed occasionally, in small amounts. Treats should never make up more than 10% of your pet’s daily calorie intake. If you do provide treats, always reduce the size of your pet’s meal.
- Swap your pet’s usual food for a lighter version
Thanks to innovations in pet food, our companion animals who need to slim down can now benefit from lower calorie foods that still contain all the protein, vitamins and minerals they need. Burgess Pet Care uses its expertise and experience to produce high-quality, award-winning pet foods that are tailored to meet the specific needs of pet animals, including these nutritious and delicious ‘light’ varieties:
- Burgess Supadog Finest Adult Light Chickenis specially created for overweight adult dogs. It contains L-Carnitine to help reduce, and then maintain your pet’s weight at the correct level. Find out more about switching your dog’s food safely >>
- Burgess Neutered Cat with Chicken is an advanced, high protein, complete food with added L-Carnitine to help maintain a healthy weight. Just 48 hours after neutering, cats need an estimated 20% fewer calories and neutered cats are more prone to weight gain. Find out more with our cat and kitten feeding guide >>
- Excel Light Rabbit Nuggets with Mint is a complementary calorie-controlled food, naturally high in Beneficial Fibre, that will help reduce and maintain your rabbit’s weight. Find out more about changing your rabbits’ food >>. Nuggets should actually make up just 5% of your bunny’s daily diet, which is about one egg cup a day per bun, along with 15% of rabbit-safe leafy greens, vegetables and herbs and 85-90% unlimited grass or high quality feeding hay. Find more rabbit nutritional advice and details of the Excel 5 Stage feeding plan, recommended by vets >>
If you’d like more feeding advice, call our helpful expert team on 0800 413 969. They’re available 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday. Alternatively, use our online form to get in touch.
- Don’t give your pets human food or table scraps
According to animal charity Blue Cross, a slice of buttered toast to a Cocker Spaniel provides about a sixth of their daily calorie requirement – the equivalent of two bags of crisps for a person. A sausage to a Staffie is the equivalent of one and a half chocolate bars to a person and a chocolate digestive to a Jack Russell is almost the same as a portion of chips to a human. What’s more, it’s important to avoid giving pets leftovers from meals as all sorts of human food can actually be harmful to pets.
- Encourage your pets to move more
- For your dog, ramping up your daily walks or setting off to explore somewhere new together is a great way to start a new fitness regime that will benefit both you and your canine chum! While all dogs need daily exercise, how much depends on their breed, age, health and even their personality. Even dogs of the same breed may have different requirements – one dog might enjoy endless country walks, while another prefers playing games in the park. PDSA recommends varying your route to keep daily walks interesting and exciting, mixing in plenty of playtime and training.
- To get your cat more active, remember that, in the wild, cats have to work for their food, which exercises their bodies and stimulates their minds. Providing their food in feeding balls or cat puzzles can deliver a much more exciting and rewarding experience for your cat and all that stalking, batting and chasing will help burn off any excess weight. Also schedule in some daily playtime with your favourite feline. Whatever their age, play is a great way to help them keep fit, lean and healthy.
- Ideally, rabbits should be able to exercise whenever they want to, but a minimum of four hours free run time a day is recommended, split into two exercise periods, morning and evening, of about two hours each. Astonishingly, a wild rabbit would run about five miles a day. To encourage them to be more active and do all the things that come naturally to bunnies, give them plenty of things to do – tunnels to run through, toys to investigate and play with and a chance to dig. A shallow tray filled with potting compost is ideal. You can also play games such as ‘nibble and sprint’, ‘the hopping challenge’ and ‘bunny bowling’, which not only encourage exercise but also help you understand rabbit behaviour a whole lot better.
- Weigh your pets regularly
Whether at home, at the vet’s or at the pet store, get into the habit of weighing your pet at least once a month. That way, you’ll be able to help them keep on track before excess weight starts to become a problem that’s much more difficult to resolve.
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CARE MORE Find lots of useful advice on caring for your pets from Burgess, the pet experts. Training, nutrition, grooming and general care, it's all here >>
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