We’re pretty much a nation of fatties and that includes our pets – fat cats and podgy pooches sitting side by side in obesity clinics is becoming the norm, they’re even working out on treadmills to shed the pounds. We take a look at how they got there, what to do once they are there, and how to keep them from getting there in the first place.

Over 50% of dogs in the US are overweight and experts fear the Irish dog population is heading the same way. In the UK, it’s estimated that about one in three dogs and one in four cats are overweight. And with obesity comes the increased risk of developing diabetes in dogs and cats, joint problems, including arthritis, respiratory problems and heart disease. The strain of carrying too much weigh makes it difficult for dogs to exercise, compounding the problem.

So why are there so many fat dogs?

Like humans, fat dogs and fat cats are a result of a poor diet (too much food in general, including junk food and treats) and too little exercise. A recent survey by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PSDA) in the UK found that nine out of 10 pet owners are giving their animals high-calorie foods, even though they know it’s bad for their health. People don’t realise that a slice of buttered toast, for example, is the equivalent of a burger to a dog or one biscuit is like a packet. We’re sharing our own unhealthy eating habits with our pets in a “well-intentioned but misguided attempt to make them happy“.

Check out the article on PSDA survey results here http://www.irishmirror.ie/britains-pet-obesity-crisis-take-aways-3290513

Hydro exercise for obese dogs

Just like us, our dogs are now working out to shed the pounds. In the last few years hydrotherapy centres have sprung up all round the country, where dogs swim in special pools or run on hydro treadmills to lose weight. The water takes the pressure off all the joints, making it a practical weight loss work out. Read about it here – http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/features/helping-pets-shed-some-pounds–hydrotheraphy-for-obese-and-injured-animals-266817.html

Tips to prevent or reduce obesity in dogs

  • Set your dog’s food bowl down with a measured amount of food and leave it there for 20 minutes. If it’s not finished in that time take what’s left away; don’t leave it for them to graze on later.
  • Dog treats shouldn’t make up more than 10% of your dog’s daily diet. Try giving them pieces of fruit or veg like carrots and apples as many dogs enjoy them just as much.
  • Dogs should get between 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day. It doesn’t have to be a scheduled walk/run and can include games like fetch, and swimming.

The following article from Petsitters Ireland gives some useful tips on preventing or reducing weight gain: http://petsittersireland.com/is-your-dog-overweight/

More fat pet info…

The following links all give good information on pet obesity, how to check for obesity and tips on preventing or reducing obesity in your pet:

http://www.petobesityprevention.org
http://www.wikihow.com/Help-Your-Dog-Lose-Weight
http://www.irishdogs.ie/articles/pet-obesity-is-out-of-control.html