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Pet obesity – A growing problem in the UK

Obesity has become the most common medical condition in our dogs.

Approximately 40% of the pet population is now classed as being overweight or obese. For a dog, this means they are more than 15% heavier than their ideal weight. The pet obesity trend is something that follows that of obesity in humans, and the main causes are the same; overeating and reduced activity. However, there are a number of other factors, including breed, age, gender, and genetics that could be playing a role. 

In many homes, dogs are seen as a ‘part of the family’ and some play a role in mealtimes, with owners giving them calorie dense human foods. There is also the tendency to give the dog a treat when owners consume snacks or leaving dogs with treats when going out. These treats are given in addition to the daily complete food ration, leading to increased calorie intake.  While a few extra calories on occasion will not make any difference, a few extra on a daily basis can add up to a lot of extra calories and weight.

Diet and feeding routine are major causes of obesity
Allowing continuous access to food that is not weighed or following the recommend guidelines will encourage your pet to consume more than they need as it will be readily available for them. Dogs also have a tendency to eat as a way of alleviated boredom. Sticking to the given guidelines on the packet, this will ensure that your dog is getting all of the nutrition he will need without consuming those extra calories. However, dependent upon your dog, this may need to be adjusted slightly in order to maintain a healthy weight for your dog.

It’s all about a balanced diet
Feeding high protein and fibre complete foods can help to prevent over-feeding as protein has half the calories of fat and makes dogs feel full which may reduce begging behaviour. However, the balance has to be right as too much protein can also lead to hyperactivity. Fibre also contributes to the feeling of being full while promoting healthy digestion. At Webbox we have a number of products, such as, Natural wet food trays and Grain Free dry food that offer a high-quality protein source to meet your dog’s needs.

Level of activity is another major factor that contributes to obesity in pets
The majority of dog owners work which means that dogs may be left alone for a long time without any exercise. Exercise is an ideal way to keep your dog in a fit and healthy condition.

Dogs should be exercised twice a day, with the amount varying depending on their age and health status, so this could be 20 minutes or 2 hours. Off-lead exercise is best as dogs are likely to walk further to investigate their environment and interact with other dogs. Interactive play with owners, such as playing fetch, is a great way of rewarding your dog and strengthening your bond. Short, frequent play sessions are also a good method of encouraging weight loss in dogs.

Speak to your vet for guidance
There are often disagreements between vets and owners when assessing a pet’s weight, with some owners unable to recognise their pets increasing size when comparing them to other overweight pets they see on walks. Therefore, vets and nutrition professionals need to be informative when talking about pet weight. Vets weigh dogs on routine visits and will advise on their target weight, many practices also offer clinics for overweight dogs with diet evaluations and advice. It is important for owners to regularly monitor their dog’s weight themselves.   

A complete diet fed at the appropriate amount, combined with plenty of exercise, responsible treating and regular weight monitoring can help your dog to lead a happy, healthy life full of enjoyment.

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