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Pet obesity is a serious health risk. Proper growth and weight can help prevent many diseases and disorders associated with obesity

You may think your dog has a little ‘puppy fat’ or that your cuddly cat is just the cutest thing, but for animals, pet obesity is a real thing, and even carrying a little extra weight can have huge health implications. October is Pet Obesity month, and experts at Hill’s are highlighting how important it is to be aware of your pet’s weight. Proper growth and weight can help prevent many diseases and disorders associated with obesity, as well as growth-related skeletal disease – extending your pets’ lives, making them more comfortable, and saving you money on potential vet bills.

Pet obesity: a serious health risk

Pet obesity is a serious health risk. Carrying excess weight can decrease a cat or dog’s life expectancy by up to two-and-a-half-years, as well as putting them at a higher risk of disease. Pet obesity has been linked to more than 20 ailments, including arthritis, urinary conditions, skin problems, heart disease and cancer. “If you think fat pets are happier, think again – overweight pets have been shown to be less happy,” says Dr Guy Fyvie, nutritional advisor for Hill’s Pet Nutrition South Africa.

Visible signs that your pet may be overweight include not being able to feel their ribs anymore; loss of a discernible waist; pads of fat over their hips and base of their tail; a waddle rather than a walk; difficulty moving; overheating; shortness of breath and bad temper.

Pet parents’ behaviour

SA vets say that although more than 50% of pets they treat are overweight or obese, many pet parents mistakenly think their pet’s weight is normal. In fact, pet parents’ behaviour often plays a major role in their animals being overweight. “Treating our loved ones with food is a way we can show them how much we love them. It’s part of our culture and tradition,” says Carla Bath, marketing manager at Hill’s Pet Nutrition South Africa. “But that shared stick of dry wors reflects the emotional part that makes obesity a complex condition that’s tough to beat.”

The right food can help

Sticking to a diet is difficult; much like it is for humans. But cutting your pet’s portion sizes or restricting calories is not going to help. Rather, get them onto a slimmer programme, like Hill’s Pet Slimmer Programme, and feed a food like Hill’s Prescription Diet Metabolic, which helps the metabolism of your overweight pet to work like that of a lean pet. Since 2013 Hill’s has had more than 21 000 pets sign up to the Hill’s Pet Slimmer programme.

Fat facts

  • The most overweight dog breeds on the Hill’s programme have been Labradors, Dachshunds, Jack Russells, Pugs and Miniature Pinschers.
  • Gauteng has the highest number of overweight pets, followed by the Western Cape; KwaZulu-Natal; the Eastern Cape and the Free State.
  • Less than 15% of pets enrolled on the programme are cats – though the largest cat ever to be signed up to the programme weighed 15kg!
  • Some of the crazy treats that Hill’s has discovered that pet parents are giving to their pets include tea and rusks, marshmallows, honey on toast, ice-cream, yoghurt and cheese.
  • More than 50 pets had more than 30kgs to lose – that’s a nine-year old-human – and there were some pets that signed up at three times their ideal body weight
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