No one can escape the fact that an increasing proportion of people in western countries are becoming overweight or obese. Most of us are well aware of the health problems stemming from obesity and we make allowances to keep our weight in check.  What we do not seem to realise is that, according to recent research, our faithful household pets seem to be also packing on the pounds! 
The latest statistics of pets who are overweight or obese are quite astounding. According to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA), around 45 per cent of all pets in the UK are considered unhealthily overweight. To be precise, the percentage of pets that are overweight or obese are as follows: dogs (45%), cats (40%), rabbits & guinea pigs (28%) and caged birds (15%). The Australian Veterinarian Association claim that dogs (45%) and cats (40%) are overweight or obese in Australia. Unfortunately the majority of pet owners surveyed by PFMA and AVA do not believe their pet is actually fat! Denial perhaps? Pet owners generally remark that they find their pets ‘cuter’ or ‘sweeter’ if they are more of the rotund variety then athletic and slim. Yes… maybe Jabba-The-Hutt kitty looks cuddly, but we are sure that he is not exactly ecstatic with carrying around the excess baggage.

The issue with having overweight or obese pets is that, just like a human, your pet’s quality of life deteriorates due to associated health problems. Pets who are overweight are more likely to suffer from a variety of illnesses including:  cardiac disease, diabetes, neurological disorders, respiratory issues, cancer, arthritis (early onset), skin problems, reproductive issues and premature ageing. Furthermore, since your overweight pet is more prone to being sick, owners end up seeking veterinary assistance more often than people with healthier pets.  Quite an unnecessary financial burden in the long run! 

A way to improve the situation is to adhere to a strict diet for your pet. Only feed them a certain portion of food twice a day, morning and night. Yes.. they may stare at you with their baby blues or whinge…but don’t give in! Select foods that are low in fat and contain all the necessary nutrients and vitamins to maximise their health potential. 
Another factor is to up the amount of exercise your pet undertakes. If you own a dog, take them for regular walks. If possible, go to a park where they can be let off their leash and run around. Perhaps you can get in on the action yourself and play catch with your dog so you get a workout as well!  Don’t over exert your dog at the start, around 20 to 60 minutes of walking each day is a good idea. Then as your pet becomes more fit, increase the intensity of their workouts. 
For cat owners, engage more with your cat by tossing them balls or have him/her chase after a bit of string or laser pointer. Aim to play with your cat in 10 to 15 minute intervals a few times a day, particularly if they are kittens or young adults.
Overall, PFMA generally recommends to exercise your dog 7 hours a week, your cat 5 hours a week and 4 hours for rabbits.  We guarantee that if you invest time in boosting your pet’s physical well being, they will be a much happier and lively pet. You may also see an improvement in your physical self! 

If you are unsure where to begin or whether your pet’s weight is actually unhealthy, we strongly advise contacting your local veterinary clinic for a thorough medical examination of your pet. Here at Concord Veterinary Hospital we have extensive experience with assisting our patients to formulate an adequate dietary and fitness regime for their pets. Overall, if you take care of your pet then everyone wins: your waistline, your pet and your wallet.