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Obesity

It is estimated that in the UK, one in three dogs, and one in four cats are overweight or obese. This can be due to a number of factors including:

  • Poor diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Breed
  • Neutering
  • Sex

Obesity in pets can lead to diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers. Obese pets have a reduced quality of life and a shorter life expectancy than pets at a healthy weight.

To check whether your pet is overweight, answer the following questions:

► Can you easily feel but not see the ribs?

► Can you see and feel your pet's waist from above?

► If you look at your pet from the side, does the stomach appear 'tucked up'?

If the answer to any of these questions is NO, then your pet may benefit from losing weight.

Our nurses run FREE weight checks to monitor the weight of your pet after neutering, as neutered animals tend to gain weight more easily.

For pets that need to lose weight, the nurses hold monthly Weight Clinics where they will give you advice on proper diet and exercise plans for your pet, so that they lose weight at a healthy safe rate. Sometimes all that is required is a little more exercise and a little less food, however our nurses can advise on Prescription diets for pets who have that bit more to lose!

If you would like to check that your pet is a healthy weight, please phone us on 01771 624001 for a FREE nurse appointment.

Getting your dog into shape

Just like people, pets need to eat the right diet and get enough exercise to stay fit and healthy. However as many of us know this is not always easy. If your pet is carrying a few extra pounds and you want to get them back into shape, you can call the surgery today to make an appointment with one of our nurses for a FREE weight clinic. 

You can also come down to the surgery and pick up one of our handy guides which contain lots of information on feeding and exercise to help keep your pet healthy and happy. 

Diet 

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes. The type and amount of food they need depends on their breed, age, health and lifestyle. For example, a working sheepdog needs much more energy than a small dog that spends most of the day indoors. Your dog needs fresh water to drink at all times. 

What should I feed my dog? 

Life-stage feeding matches your dog’s diet to what they need at different ages and stages of development. For example, puppies need different food from older dog because their bodies are still growing. Feeding your dog a complete pet food is the easiest way to make sure they get all the nutrients they need.

  • You will find guidelines on how much to feed on the packet.
  • You can check you’re feeding the right amount by weighing the food out.

It sounds obvious, but pets that eat too much get fat! If you feed your dog a lot of treats as well as their normal food, most of the extra calories will turn into fat. Dogs don’t need treats to know you love them: playing and spending time with you are what they enjoy most of all. 

How often should I feed my dog?

Dogs like routine. They’re happiest when they have regular mealtimes – it also helps you make sure they’re getting the right amount of food and that they are eating it all. It’s a good idea to weigh out your dog’s food at the start of the day and split it into two equal sized meals. 

  • A shorter time between feeds (12 hours rather than 24) means the dog will be less hungry and less likely to gobble the food to quickly. 
  • A second meal gives your dog something to look forward to, so the day is less boring. 
  • Dogs often sleep after a meal.
  • Dogs on two meals a day usually get fewer treats and titbits.
  • Two small meals are easier for dogs to digest than one large meal.
  • For some small dogs, feeding more often – up to four times a day – can help prevent problems like low blood sugar.
  • Remember that each meal is half your dog’s daily food: feeding twice a day doesn’t mean giving twice the amount.

What about food scraps? 

Do not feed leftovers, bits of meat and other scraps because: 

  • Human food isn’t always good for dogs: some like chocolate and grapes, is poisonous. 
  • Dogs that get scraps may refuse to eat their normal food without them. 
  • It unbalances the dogs regular diet and they often get overweight. 
  • Your dog may misbehave during your mealtimes, thinking they’re going to get food.
  • To many vegetables can cause wind. 
  • Fatty foods can cause tummy upsets and contain lots of extra calories. To a medium sized dog, eating a cube of cheese is like a person eating two scones!

What it means if your dog is overweight

For dogs being overweight can cause a whole host of health problems. These can include heart, liver and joint problems, breathing difficulties and diabetes; obese dogs also find it harder to exercise and cope with hot weather. 

Dogs put on weight simply by eating more food than they need. Luckily, in most cases, the answer is simple: it just takes time and a bit of effort to get them back into shape. 

What you can do to help

Start by coming to see us. We will be able to tell if there’s some other reason your dog is putting on weight, an underactive thyroid glad for example. We run FREE weight clinics for pets. 

It is best for your dog to lose weight gradually: about 1-2% of their starting weight each week is a good target. If your dog is just slightly overweight, feeding a bit less, or changing to a lower-calorie food may be all you need to do. Dogs that are very fat or obese may need a special diet, as reducing their food too much may mean they don’t get all the nutrients they need which can also cause liver problems. Our nursing team can advise you on this. 
Another top tip is to keep a food diary for a week and take it with you when you come and see our nursing team. This can help you spot where your dog is getting extra calories and makes it easier to cut them out without a special diet. As well as diet, exercise is very important in helping your dog to lose weight. 

Exercise

Our dogs rely on us to keep them fit and healthy. The best form of exercise for most dogs is walking – which is really good for people to! 

All dogs need regular exercise but especially when they are trying to lose weight because walks and games help them burn calories. How much exercise your dog needs depends on their type, age and health. For puppies, older dogs or those with arthritis several short walks a day are usually better than one long one. 

It’s important not to make big or sudden changes to your dog’s diet or exercise routine. If you have any questions or concerns, come down and see one of our nurses for a FREE weight clinic. 

How much exercise?

  • Young dogs can usually go further and faster than older ones (this does not apply to puppies and not to all older dogs).
  • Jogging is not good for puppies or larger breeds as it can damage their joints.
  • Dogs with short noses, like Bulldogs and Boxers, may have trouble breathing if they work to hard. This doesn’t mean they should not exercise, just shorter periods more often.

How many walks?

  • Work at your dog’s own pace. If your dog isn’t getting tired or is still full of energy when you get home, more exercise might be needed. 
  • Be careful not to overdo it. If your dog is struggling, gets home worn out, or refuses to go out at all, you may need to cut back. 
  • Give your dog a five minute warm up at the beginning of the exercise, and a five minute cool down afterwards. This will help prevent muscle and joint strains and other injuries. 
  • Make sure your dog will sit and stay on command and walk to heel on the lead. This will make the exercise easier to do and be more effective. 
  • As long as you are both dressed for it, most dogs are happy to go out whatever the weather. Rain and snow are not usually a problem (for the dog, anyway!) In really hot weather, go out early in the morning or later on in the evening so that your dog does not get over heated. 
  • If you don’t have somewhere you can exercise your dog safely, play games indoors.
  • It is not good for dogs to exercise with a full stomach, so wait an hour after feeding before going for a walk. Its also not a good idea for them to eat straight afterwards.
  • Build up the amount of exercise gradually. Trying to rush things may do more harm than good. 
  • Do different things as part of the programme. You and your dog are much more likely to stick with it if it is interesting.

Getting your cat into shape

Just like people, pets need to eat the right diet and get enough exercise to stay fit and healthy. But as many of us know this is not always easy!

In this handy guide, you’ll find lots of information on feeding and exercise to help keep your cat healthy and happy. And if your cat is carrying a few extra pounds, there is also advice on how you can help them lose weight and get back into shape.

Diet 

Your cat needs the right food to stay healthy and happy. The type and amount depend on their breed, species, age, health and lifestyle. Your cat needs fresh water to drink at all times.

What should I feed my cat?

Life-stage feeding matches your cats diet to what they need at different ages and stages of development. For example, kittens need different food from older cats because their bodies are still growing. Feeding your cat a complete food is the easiest way to make sure they get all the nutrients they need.

  • You will find guidelines on how much to feed on the packet.
  • You can check you’re feeding the right amount by weighing the food out.

How often should I feed my cat? 

Cats prefer lots of small meals rather than one large one. They graze, eating between eight and sixteen times a day so it is best to leave food out for them, unless there is a chance it will go off or be eaten by another cat. It’s a good idea to weigh out your cat’s food at the start of the day. Most cats are very good at knowing how much they need to eat, but some are greedy! If your cat is eating too much and putting on weight, it may be better to feed them three to four meals a day, instead of leaving food out. If your cat is hunting and eating the prey, they need much less food in the house. 

Should I give my cat milk?

Our vets recommend that you don’t give cats milk to drink. Cow’s milk contains sugar that cats find hard to digest, which can cause tummy upsets. 

What about food scraps?

Do not feed leftovers, bits of meat and other scraps because: 

  • Cats that are used to getting scraps may refuse to eat their normal food without them. 
  • It unbalances the cats regular diet, and they often get overweight. 
  • Your cat may misbehave during your mealtimes, thinking they are going to get food. 

What it means if your cat is overweight

For cats being overweight can cause a whole host of health problems. These can include heart, liver and joint problems, breathing difficulties and diabetes; obese cats also find it harder to exercise and cope with hot weather. 

Cats put on weight simply by eating more food than they need. Luckily, in most cases, the answer is simple: it just takes time and a bit of effort to get them back into shape. 

Exercise

Pets rely on us to keep them fit and healthy. Cats are designed to be active in short bursts, so playing with them is the best way to make sure they get enough exercise, especially if they live indoors. It is also a great way to bond with them and show them how much you love them! 

Most cats love playing games, especially with: 

  • Things they can hit. Cats enjoy batting at light things that move easily across the floor: a ball of paper is ideal. Its important not to give them anything they can chew up or swallow. 
  • Things they can chase. Wind up toys, or a piece of string dragged across the floor, will turn even a couch potato into a hunter. Store the string in a sealed container.
  • Things they can climb into. Cats can have hours of fun with an empty box. 
  • Things they can scratch. Scratching keeps a cat’s claws sharp and tones their shoulder and back muscles. A scratching post will meet this need. 

Although it is tempting, it is not a good idea to use your hand or fingers as ‘bait’. Your cat will think it is okay to scratch and bite you. 

It is important not to make big or sudden changes to your cat’s diet or exercise routine. If you have any questions or concerns, we will be happy to help. 

Special cat toys and activities will help to keep your cat busy and interested in life. This is important because cats that are bored tend to eat too much and get fat. Getting them a new toy every now and again is a perfect treat and much better for them than extra food.

What you can do to help

Start by coming to see us. Our nurses will be able to tell if there is some other reason your cat is putting on weight. We run FREE weight clinics for pets. 

It is best for your cat to lose weight gradually: about 1% of their starting weight each week is a good target. If your cat is just slightly overweight, feeding a bit less, or changing to a lower-calorie food may be all you need to do. Cats that are very fat or obese may need a special diet, as reducing their food too much may mean they don’t get all the nutrients they need which can also cause liver problems. Our nursing team can advise you on this. 

Another top tip is to keep a food diary for a week and take it with you when you come to see our nurses. This can help you spot where your cat is getting extra calories and makes it easier to cut them out without a special diet. As well as diet, exercise is very important in helping your cat to lose weight.

Getting your rabbit into shape

Just like people, your rabbit needs to eat the right diet and get enough exercise to stay fit and healthy. But as many of us know this is not always easy!

In this handy guide, you’ll find lots of information on feeding and exercise to help keep your rabbit healthy and happy. And if your rabbit is carrying a few extra pounds, there is also advice on how you can help them lose weight and get back into shape. 

Diet 

Rabbits come in many shapes and sizes. The type and amount of food the need to depends on breed, species, age, health and lifestyle. 

What should I feed my rabbit? 

  • Rabbits need a diet that’s a s close as possible to their natural food. In the wild, they spend more than half of their time feeding. Hay, grass and root vegetables are ideal foods for rabbits. They take time to eat and contain a lot of fibre, which is good for your rabbit’s digestion and helps wear down their teeth, which keep growing for their whole life. Having hay to eat also stops them from getting bored. 
  • Rabbits also need an egg cupful of pellets once daily. 

How often should I feed my rabbit? 

Our vets advise that rabbits should be fed: 

  • At least their body size amount of hay each day which they have continuous access to. This is very important for healthy teeth and digestion. 
  • A handful of fresh vegetables, morning and evening. Although rabbits love carrots, they contain a lot of sugar, which is bad for your rabbit’s teeth. 

It’s important not to make sudden changes to your rabbit’s diet, as this can make them go off their food completely. If you’re not sure what to feed, ask your vet or vet nurse and they will be happy to help you. 

It sounds obvious, but pets that eat too much get fat! If you feed your rabbit a lot treats as well as their normal food, most of the extra calories will turn into fat. Rabbits don’t need treats to know you love them: playing and spending time with you is what they enjoy most of all. 

What it means if your rabbit is overweight

For rabbits being overweight makes it harder for them to move around. This can cause a whole host of health problems. The fur can get worn away at the backs of their legs and they can develop sores over the joints. If they can’t turn around to clean their bottom properly or eat their caecotrophs, they can get fly strike and not get their full nutrition from their food. This is where flies lay eggs in the dirty fur, which can hatch out into maggots. Female rabbits that are overweight may also find it difficult to breed. 

Pets put on weight simply by eating more food than they need. Luckily, in most cases, the answer is simple, too: it just takes time and a bit of effort, to get them back into shape. 

What you can do to help

Start by coming to see us. Helping your rabbits to lose weight has to be done carefully. If they lose weight too quickly, it can cause liver problems. As well as diet, exercise is very important in helping your rabbit lose weight. We can also advise on exercise ideas.

Diet History Sheet

Practice information

Mintlaw Vet Surgery

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