Obesity ‘epidemic’ is spreading to our pets

Robson and Prescott,  vets,  in Morpeth

Robson and Prescott, vets, in Morpeth

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For Christmas, my wife bought me some clever scales that not only tell me my weight, but also inform me that in assuming the majority of my bulk is made up of muscle I am completely deluded.

If I am having to face up to an expanding waist hint, I don’t think I’m unique, and our pets are not immune to winter weight gain either.

This will be, in part, down to Christmas treats – my three dogs make short work of the chews – but more significantly, it is the propensity for pets to be exercised less through winter.

Even if Rover remains unbothered by the cold and wet, the likelihood is that the human at the other end of the lead finds the prospect of traipsing through winter clarts less appealing. The practical limitations of shorter days also restrict the time available for long runs.

Similarly, the activity level of cats diminishes significantly during the eight-hour days compared with the 18 hours of summer.

Everyone is aware of the ‘obesity epidemic’ in humans, but the same changes are more stark in our canine and feline friends, with one in three dogs and one in four cats and rabbits being obese, meaning they are 20 to 25 per cent or more above their ideal body weight.

A significant issue is a lack of recognition on the part of owners. Every day our vets will see clients with a perfectly proportioned dog only to be asked: “Is his weight OK, everyone tells me he’s too skinny?”

The sad truth is that people are now accepting obesity as the norm and assuming any healthily conditioned dog is underweight.

Obesity impinges significantly on pet health, wellbeing and longevity. Be it through diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, respiratory compromise, hypertension or certain cancers, the fact is that fat pets die younger.

The problems are not limited to cats and dogs. On a daily basis I see obese rabbits (cage restricted and overfed concentrates), parrots (fed on high fat seed and rarely exercising), and reptiles (fatty waxworms presented on a plate).

At Robson and Prescott, we offer free, one-to-one nurse diet clinics. We can provide advice regarding feeding and exercise, and can even pop your pooch on the hydrotherapy treadmill.

Use your vet, identify if your pet has weight issues and, if so, now’s the time to make those New Year’s resolutions.

By Sam Prescott,

Director and Vet