If you love your pet, whether it be a dog, cat, hamster or snake, there is a danger you can give it too much love by overfeeding it, and I have been guilty of this myself. My dog Harvey, a golden retriever, was limping for a few days so I took him to the vets who, as soon as I stepped through the doors exclaimed ‘Wow, he’s a big dog!’ I was unaware that he was! He had such a thick coat on him that I really had not noticed he had steadily been piling on the pounds for the last few months without my knowledge. The vet weighed him and he came in at around 40kgs which is very heavy for that kind of dog. Worst still, the reason for him limping was not due to any problem with his feet or legs, it was simply the excess weight he was carrying. The vet asked me what I fed him and if I gave him any treats during the day. Any treats? Harvey would eat the last piece of my sandwich, drink the dregs from my teacup, finish off a slice of cake or polish off the final sausage roll, there was literally nothing I did not give him. And here was the problem. Not only were they the wrong kind of treats but he was so grossly overweight that pressure was building up causing him to have breathing difficulties, he found walking hard due to the increased weight and if I had left it longer, he could have had a heart seizure. I was killing my own dog with love.
Harvey immediately went on a low-fat diet, he had shorter but more frequent walks to ease his joints, which had become inflamed, and definitely no more treats. Within about three or four months he was down to around 32kgs, a much more sensible weight for a dog of his kind. But I never forgot how close we came to him becoming morbidly obese and the fact that I could have lost him. The problem here is that, as a nation of pet lovers, we tend to feed our pets as we feed ourselves and food is unmistakably associated with giving love. The result is that an overwhelming amount of both humans and pets in this country have become obese. But I am not the only one who makes this mistake. In the US, it is estimated that 20 to 40% of all dogs are considered obese. If a dog, or any pet has their weight managed and controlled properly, you will have as a result, an animal that is mentally sharp, has more energy, and is better able to give affection. So how can you avoid the pitfalls and traps that I fell into?
By following these 5 simple guidelines you can prevent obesity in your pet:
It is easier to prevent your animal becoming overweight than it is to get them to lose weight. So start as you mean to go on. Make sure that you always feed your pet regularly and at specific times of the day. This in itself goes a long way to help prevent overfeeding and also keeps your pet satiated throughout the day. If you have a dog, look at the packet instructions and measure out exactly what portion you should be feeding. If your pet is overweight, try switching from dry food to wet; dry food is packed with carbohydrates that bulk out the food and your pet. If you are going to feed your animal treats, then they should be special ones made specifically for that animal and not a piece of cake or biscuit that is human food. And whatever treat you give should be deducted from their daily overall calorie intake. As a rule, give one to two treats a day and for praise or training.
Dogs especially need exercise every single day so you have to be willing to take them out, whatever the weather for a twice daily walk. Some types of dog need much more exercise than a brief trot around the park so if you are going for a high performance dog breed like border collies, greyhounds and German Shepherds, you should absolutely make time to exercise them for at least 2 or more hours a day.
BARF stands for ‘biologically appropriate raw food’ or ‘bones and raw food’. Both are diets that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates. A BARF diet helps your dog or cat maintain proper digestion to keep them nutritionally satisfied throughout the day and gives them the right amount of enzymes, vitamins, minerals and natural dietary ingredients they need to stay healthy and strong. Feeding your pet a BARF diet can be time-consuming and expensive at first however, pets on a BARF diet do not tend to need as much medical treatment as pets who are not on it. They are healthier, have more energy and live longer than pets who eat dry kibble or wet food so it is worth considering.
Taking on any kind of pet is a huge responsibility, and not one that should be taken lightly. Pets can live for 2 years, right up to 20, depending on the animal and provide much joy, love and companionship. It is your job to make sure they are eating a healthy, nutritionally adequate diet, as they cannot feed themselves. That way you can enjoy being a responsible pet owner and get the most enjoyment from your animal.