One of the most misunderstood areas of pet health is weight, and how best to control it.
We have taken the confusion out of this topic by making the answer very simple for any pet owner who has problems either reducing or controlling their pet’s weight.
Hence, if having weight concerns with your pet (or indeed just wondering if there is a concern), read on for the simple answer!
How do I know if my pet is overweight?
This is an extremely common question, along with “how much should my pet weigh?”. There is no “set weight” that a particular breed should be. We cannot say a Labrador should weigh 30kg’s. The range may be from 25 to 40 depending on the individual.
So to break it down we go through 4 steps to determine is our pet’s weight is correct.
1) How does my pet actually look? Does he seem overweight, underweight or about right when we just observe him?
2) Once we have made our general assessment above, we then simply feel his ribcage. Use the tips of all fingers on one hand and run the tips of your fingers across the side of his ribs. You should be able to feel the ribs quite easily. If they are difficult to feel, he is overweight. If they are far too easy to feel he is underweight.
3) Now for the most important aspect of determining weight. The spine! Run your fingers flat across the top of his back, feeling the points of the spine (called the spinal processes). You should be able to feel these, not necessarily easily, but feel them without difficulty. If they are a little difficult to feel, he is overweight! If they are too sharp and easy to feel, with the muscle each side falling away sharply, he is underweight.
4) From the above, you can now determine if your pet is mildly, moderately or severely overweight or underweight. From this assessment we will judge how much we need to change his weight (see below).
That’s it in a nutshell. Assess your pets weight via those 4 steps and continue to monitor that.
If my pet is overweight, how much weight should he lose, and what is the best way to go about that?
This is where we make an initial best guess as to how much weight we will aim for. Let’s say you have a Labrador weighing 40kg’s, who is moderately overweight as judged above. I would then estimate we need to lose about 3-4 kg’s. However, we continue to reassess his weight as we go. It may be that 2kg’s is enough, or we may need to lose up to 5kg’s. We will reassess as the weight comes off.
How to reduce your pet’s weight?
Now for the nitty gritty.
This is actually quite easy. We often have clients present with overweight pets who tell us “oh yes I know he’s overweight, but I’ve had him on a weight control diet and nothing works!” When we ask which diet we are often told either this one or that one that is meant to be really good. Our simple advice is, no matter what diet you try, if it hasn’t worked after 3 months, change! That diet, no matter their marketing of how good it is meant to be, isn’t working!
There are 2 main diets we advise for the best chance at controlled weight loss.
1) Home cooking using: 50% vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, peas, cauliflower. 50% very lean meat. Do not use minced meats. Remove all fat and sinew of your preferred meat, whether it be beef, chicken, pork (fillets are lean!) or kangaroo. Even fish is a great choice. Ordinary we espouse the virtues of table scraps and home cooking, and advise about a 20% to 80% ratio of vegies to meat. For weight control, 50/50 and lean meats, no minced meat. No fat or skin.
2) If wanting a more practical option there are 2 commercial diets that we believe have the highest chance of weight control. Hills R/D, or reducing diet, or Royal Canin weight loss.
Basically try any of the 3 above for 3 months, then you have truly given it your best shot! Oh, and don’t forget that you are welcome to call into the clinic any time to check your pet’s weight.
Once you have achieved your goal weight, you can then change to a light diet to maintain that weight.