More pets than ever before have joined their ‘forever homes’ during the last year. In fact, there were 7.5 million Google searches for ‘new pet’ across 2020. Yet the current climate has negatively impacted the health of our pets, as we have all become more sedentary due to lockdowns across Australia, according to a press release from Hill’s Pet Nutrition Australia.
In fact, pre-pandemic statistics showed more than 50% of pets are overweight and 90% of ‘pawrents’ with an overweight pet don’t realise that they are overweight!
To help combat the issue, Hill’s Pet Nutrition Australia analysed more than 4K pet obesity-related Google search terms to uncover Australia’s most frequently asked questions on the topic in order to work out exactly what is concerning pet parents right now.
The research found a 24% rise in concern regarding pet obesity compared to the previous year, highlighting a need to tackle the knowledge gap amongst owners in support of optimal pet health.
Tips to support healthy pet weight
Pet obesity is sadly a common yet preventable issue. As such, Professional Consulting Veterinarian Dr Jessica Mills BVSc (Hons I) has shared top tips for pet parents to follow as the world marks one year since the pandemic hit disrupting daily exercise and nutrition routine.
Top 10 tips to support pets healthy weight management:
- Know your starting point…
- A healthy weight can vary between breeds and species, and you need to know what’s ideal for your pet type. Typically, you should weigh your dog or cat in kilos and keep this figure in your pet’s health file as a clear starting point.
- Calculate exact calories…
- You need to know how many calories your dog or cat requires in order to maintain a healthy balance; consider age, weight, activity level and breed type amongst other things. Feeding guides on food packages are just that, a guide. Your pet’s feeding amount may need to be adjusted to support their individual requirements. The team at your local veterinary clinic will be able to help determine your pet’s ideal body weight and energy requirements.
- Provide a good quality diet…
- A nutritious diet can make a huge difference in your pet’s lifelong health and happiness. Nutrition not only impacts your pets’ weight, but also contributes to healthy digestion, strong bones and a beautiful coat. Precisely balanced nutrition is key to any pet’s weight management journey.
- Make sure you measure meals…
- Many pet owner’s simply ‘guestimate’ when it comes to feeding both dogs and cats the right amount. Weighing out your pet’s food is the most accurate way to measure their food, but using the measuring cup provided by the manufacturer can also keep you on the right track. The feeding guide on the pack will provide you with a good starting point. Alternatively, your veterinary health care team or manufacturer’s helpline can help you determine the ideal amount to be feeding your pet.
- Free Feeding your cat or dog can result in an ‘all-day buffet’ with owners constantly keeping the pet bowl full, and whilst you may think you’re keeping your pet happy, you may be contributing to those extra kilos through too much readily available kibble.
- Try to switch out ‘treats…’
- Don’t feed table scraps to your pet, especially if they are trying to lose weight. It might seem like a little ‘here and there’ but for some pets, it can be the equivalent of a whole meal. In human calorie terms, 28 g of cheddar cheese is the equivalent of 1.5 burgers for your 9 kg dog or 3.5 burgers for your 4.5 kg cat!
- Instead, get into the habit of rewarding good behaviour with fun, not with food. Pay your pet extra attention and affection with more cuddles, walks or playtime.
- Use food as a way to nourish body and mind…
- Many pets will overeat when they are bored. Puzzle feeders or treat balls can be used to help keep your pet mentally active and slow down their eating habits by making them work for their food.
- Prioritise an exercise plan …
- For dogs, look at simple ways to increase their exercise. Maybe it’s possible to add a couple of extra walks a week or increase the length of your daily walk. Or maybe you can change the route so they are exercising more intensely – going up hills or stairs are great to burn calories. Another great option is to find games they like such as fetch so that you both enjoy these daily exercise sessions.
- For cats, simple games such as “hunting” the light can encourage them to move more. Simply shine a torch on the floor and walls and the natural movement will encourage your pet to chase it. For cats that love their food, puzzle feeders and dividing the meal around the house can encourage more movement whilst they eat – in fact you can actually teach your cat to hunt for their food by hiding it around the house.
- Make it a family affair…
- Ensure that everyone involved in your pet’s care is aware of any changes to diet, exercise or health regime. That way, it will be a lot easier for your pet to keep to their required plan and you will be more likely to stay on track as everyone can join together, to encourage a healthier lifestyle.
- Know what’s normal…
- It is important to have a base understanding of what is normal when it comes to the weight and size of your pet, just like you would do with your own body. Make sure you are regularly performing health checks and you know signs to look out for. Unexpected or sudden weight loss or weight gain could be an indicator of underlying disease and a good reason to check in with your vet.
- Take it slowly…
- At the end of the day, healthy weight management for your cat or dog is a lifestyle change. Remember there is no quick fix and that nothing happens overnight. But by looking at the diet and exercise regime of your pets, you can help keep them healthy and happy for many years to come.
Full study findings along with expanded advice can be found here: www.hillspet.com.au/pet-obesity-study-2021
Source: Media Release, 11 May 2021
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The information we offer is educational in nature and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical prevention, diagnosis or treatment. Our recommendation is to always do your research.