Is your dog too fat for its own good?

30 October 2018 - 10:56 By Zola Zingithwa
Obesity is the number one health risk facing SA's pets, according to pet food brand Hills.
Obesity is the number one health risk facing SA's pets, according to pet food brand Hills.
Image: 123RF/chuanthit

Bet you didn’t know October was Pet Obesity Month. Even if you didn’t, there are clearly enough oversized pets for a whole month to be dedicated to this problem.

With the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention classifying 56% of dogs and 60% of cats as clinically overweight in the US, that country’s Animal League says pet obesity is becoming an epidemic.

In South Africa, pet obesity is the number one health risk facing pets – over half are overweight or obese, according to pet food brand Hill’s website They add that overweight pets not only have shorter lives but are also likely to be less happy than slimmer ones.

And surely no pet owner wants a miserable furry companion.

So, how do you lessen the risk of your dog or cat dying from health risks related to being too fat?

According to Dr Simone Steyn of the Greenside Animal Hospital in Johannesburg, you can determine if your pet is obese or not simply by looking at it.

“If you look from the top down onto the pet, you should be able to see a waistline.” Yes, it’s apparently that simple. She adds you should be able to feel the ribs easily but not see them - you also don’t want to starve your animal.

If your pet is overweight or obese, you will need to help it have a healthier lifestyle. As Steyn says, “An active pet is a happy pet.”

Here are Steyn’s top tips for helping your pooch shed its paunch:

  1. First, if your pet is obese, you should not leave food for it to eat at any time. You need to feed them the right amount (as stated on the packet), twice a day, and not leave food out the whole day.
  2. If your pet still does not lose weight, decrease the food you are using. Reduce the food by about 10% and then see if your animal loses weight.
  3. And then, if that’s not working, start your pet on a special diet with low-calorie food - there are many on the market.
  4. Also, don’t overdo the treats and get a lot of exercise. All exercise is good.