10 vet recommended tips to healthy pet weight management
With summer around the corner, everyone’s thinking about staying fit and getting in shape. We say, let’s extend that thinking to pets! Hill’s vets, Tim and Su, know a thing or two about pet health and fitness. They took a break from talking to vets around the UK about pet food nutrition, to share their top 10 count down on pet slimming.
- 1.Act early to return to ideal weight
Su says if your pet’s weight edges above the ideal, then that’s the perfect time to start making changes. “Minor adjustments in portion size for a few days can soon bring your pet back into the healthy weight zone. Take action early and it’s much easier to fix the problem of excess weight gain.”
- 2.Know your pet’s body condition score
“The key to early weight adjustment is developing an expert eye”, says Tim. To work out what a healthy body shape should look like for cats and dogs, view our body condition score video for cats and for dogs to learn some expert techniques.
- 3.Feed the right pet food
Bamboozled by pet food choice? Su recommends pet owners choose a quality brand that provides all the balanced nutrition your pet needs. Then, in order, think about your pet’s age, breed size, level of activity and finally any special requirements. Leave out the human food scraps - they often aren’t healthy options for pets.
- 4.Adjust to pets with a tendency to be overweight
As a vet, Tim feels pet owners need to treat weight gain seriously, “Whether you call it ‘love handles’ or ‘jelly belly’ – the fact is it’s unhealthy and could shorten your pet’s life.” Choose your pet food accordingly if you know your pet tends to gain weight easily. There are lots of healthy options available like Science Plan™ Light, or Science Plan™ Perfect Weight from our Hill’s special care range to help your pet reach their ideal weight and maintain it.
- 5.Feed according to lifestyle
Like humans, changes occur in our pet’s life that may require a change in diet. A common change is neutering. This can confer lots of health benefits but the risk of obesity is almost doubled, advises Su. Yet only 110% of owners change their dog or cat’s food after neutering. Your vet can tell you about the specialist pet foods available for neutered pets and give a recommendation.
- 6.Feed your pet differently through the seasons
Tim observes that many of his pet patients have different activity levels through the year, “Winters might be spent indoors leading a largely sedentary life asleep on the sofa. While in summer it’s not unusual for cats to spend hours outdoors and for dogs to be given more active, off-lead exercise.” To compensate, in winter, meals might just have to get a little leaner and in a calorie burning summer they can often be a bit more generous – it’s a case of matching food to activity.
- 7.All pets are not created equal – in weight that is!
Even dogs or cats of the same breed can differ in what weight is ideal for them. And like those people that can apparently eat like horses while never gaining a pound, there’s the equivalent in pet terms too. Su’s recommendation is to never follow on-pack feeding guides step-by-step as those only provide a starting point.
- 8.Get set with a baseline weight
Create a benchmark! Even when you’ve learned about body condition scoring and the ideal pet body shape, Tim thinks that it’s still a good idea to have your pet weighed on a regular basis. A visit to the vet for a routine appointment is also a great time to check and record your pet’s weight. You then have a number for future comparisons. If your pet has unexplained weight loss or gain, always speak to your vet.
- 9.Get a pet fitness habit
Love to get fit? Bet your pet would too. Take your dog along for motivation on long walks, or runs. Su says you can always find one game at home that will keep your cat moving – and it’s an essential for house cats. Need some inspiration? We have five exercise tips for cats and five exercise ideas for dogs that you can use to start that pet fitness regime straight away.
- 10.Think weight every day and aim for perfect
Every day can be a weight management day. Tim’s recommendation is to weigh out the food every time and constantly review what you feed and how much; all of those things make the difference between a chubby pet with the risk of getting weight related health issues and a healthy pet at their ideal weight.
To get more weight related and general health tips, register to our Hill’s Pet Mailing list. First time registrants get a £5/€5 off coupon on their next purchase of Hill’s pet food.
1. U&A study, by Ipsos Mori (Europe 2012)