Post-Christmas weight gain

It isn’t just us that have gained the pounds over the Christmas period, our pets also have had a sneaky sausage roll or some leftover turkey! So what should we do to ensure our pets remain healthy after Christmas?

50% of dogs are considered to be overweight, this means they are taking in more calories than they are burning off. Dogs will show a slight variation in weight over the course of a year just like us and neutered dogs tend to be more at risk of weight gain ( there are some dog foods specifically designed for neutered dogs which contain an average of 30% fewer calories). To know if your dog is overweight a body condition score should be done as breed standard weights are just a guide. Your dogs own BCS is a far better evaluation of its ideal weight. You should be able to feel the ribs as you run your hands along the sides of the body but not be able to see them.

Being overweight can also make it more likely that your pet could suffer from serious health problems and conditions such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Breathing difficulties
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Arthritis, Joint Problems and Injuries
  • Skin Problems
  • Anal Gland Problems
  • Cystitis
  • Incontinence (mainly seen in bitches)
  • Ulcers/pressure sores
  • Fly Strike (Maggot infestation) – This occurs when animals cannot reach their bottoms and clean themselves
  • Irritability
  • Matted Fur
  • Overweight and obese pets usually have shorter lives than fitter pets.
  • Overweight pets also tend to interact less with their families and are less energetic and playful

Any weight loss program should be done gradually. A suggested food reduction to start is by 10%. the food can be split into three meals a day to keep metabolism burning calories. Dogs will feel less hungry in between meals. Feeding from a smaller bowl will also make it look like there is more food in the bowl. A 1% bodyweight total loss a week is a good and safe rate of loss. If losing more than 3% a week on an ongoing basis the dog is losing the weight too fast and may be starting to break down muscle mass as well.

Increasing exercise will help burn calories but studies have shown exercise alone is not enough and altering diet is more effective than just exercise.If you are increasing the exercise by too much and also cutting back food you will most likely have a dog that is continually hungry! So if your pet has been part of the festivities, now is a good time to start working off the extra pounds and keep them fit and healthy for longer.