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10 Tips to Avoid Pet Obesity

In line with May to celebrate National Pet MonthHills Pet Nutrition Australia are eager to raise awareness surrounding the pet obesity epidemic and help to inform pet parents about nutrition and lifestyle changes we can all implement to aid our pets in losing weight, giving them a healthier outlook: both now and into the future.

Pet Obesity Statistics

A significant percentage of Australian pets are overweight, mirroring global trends in pet health:

Obesity is one of the top health threats our pets face, yet is preventable with proactive management.

These statistics highlight a lack of education among pet owners. This issue doesn't just stop at extra kilos: it extends to affecting our pets' mobility, mood, and overall wellbeing.

Did you know that for every kilo your pet is overweight, it has the same equivalent impact as the following for us humans:
  • Cat: 1kg overweight = 15kg overweight
  • Small Dog: 1kg overweight = 6kg overweight
  • Large Dog: 1kg overweight = 3kg overweight

*Approximate calculation based on a 68 Kg person, 4.5 Kg cat, 11 Kg small breed dog, and 25 Kg large breed dog.

Resources and Support - How to Identify an Overweight Pet

In addressing the challenge of pet obesity, Hills Pet Nutrition Australia offers valuable resources that can turn concern into action.

Onsite visuals and guides aim to support better healthy pet weight management through identifiers to spot clear indicators of whether our pets are in their normal and healthy weight range and provide detailed weight management guidance across all topics from pet fitness their caloric needs to educate pet parents on how to both reduce and maintain the weight of our pets, so that they can be in their best natural shape.

The L.O.V.E Test

Our simple tool, called the L.O.V.E. Test is a good reminder to help effectively assess your pet's weight providing a tailored assessment to understand the specific needs and health risks of your dog or cat.

✔️ L: Locating the pet's ribs

✔️ O: Observing from above

✔️ V: Viewing from the side

E: Evaluating feeding behaviour

Additionally, our Pet Calorie Converter tool demystifies the overlooked impact of human food on our pets by translating what those table scraps really mean in terms of a pet’s daily caloric intake.

This tool is a game changer for pet parents, aiding in making informed decisions that keep their pets daily food intake in line with their overall energy needs and health goals. Together, these resources seek to empower pet owners to actively manage their pets’ weights through informed nutrition choices.

As caretakers, it's crucial to understand that keeping our pets at a healthy weight is not just about aesthetics—it's about ensuring their overall well-being and quality of life. Regular veterinary check-ups and mindful dietary choices can go a long way in preventing the detrimental effects of pet obesity, fostering a happier and healthier life for our four-legged friends.

Dr Jessica Mills, Professional Consulting Veterinarian at Hill’s Pet Nutrition Australia said:

“Changed perceptions of what a healthy weight for a pet is or what that looks like is partly to blame. If the majority of pets we meet on the streets and at the park are overweight, then this can become 'normalised' regardless of where that sits on the scale of health and wellbeing. A few easy tips to tell if your dog or cat is overweight - you should be able to feel your pet’s ribs through their fur and your cat or dog should not have a sagging tummy. The team at your local veterinary clinic are a great place to get advice if you are concerned that your pet might be overweight.

As well as recognising when a pet is overweight, it’s important to do something about it. Being overweight or obese is more than just a cosmetic problem for dogs and cats. Being overweight causes a state of chronic inflammation that can lead to the development of many preventable diseases such as arthritisdiabetes, and respiratory conditions, and can shorten a pet’s life expectancy by up to 2 years.”

Top 10 Tips to Support Pets' Healthy Weight Management 

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

    4. Make sure you measure meals: Many pet owners simply ‘guestimate’ when it comes to feeding their dogs and cats the right amount. Weighing out your pet's food is the most accurate way to measure their daily intake, and 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.

    5. 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.

    6. Use food as a way to nourish the 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. 

    7. 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. Try to 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.

    8. Make it a family affair: Ensure that everyone involved in your pets care is aware of all changes to diet, exercise or health regime. That way it will be a lot easier to stick to their required plan and you will be more likely to stay on track as everyone can join together, to encourage a healthier lifestyle.

    9. 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.

    10. Take it slow: 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.

MEDIA RELEASE, 30th April 2024

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