It’s National Obesity Awareness Week (14th-20th Jan) and with pet obesity steadily on the rise, more needs to be done to make owners aware of their overweight pets and the complications that come with extra pounds.

Feeding habits and exercise play a big role in pet obesity, many owners feed their dogs table scraps and extra treats to show them affection but habits like these are actually doing much more harm than good. Although to some owners these bad habits may seem insignificant, research shows weight gain comes at an extra cost. A recent study by the University of Liverpool and Mars Petcare’s WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition has found that obesity can shorten a dogs lifespan by two years.

The most common reason that pets become overweight is eating too much food and not getting enough exercise

The consequences of being overweight were seen in all the breeds across the study, however the significance of the effect differed, ranging from between five months less for male German Shepherds to two years and six months less for male Yorkshire Terriers.

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home have been drawing attention to the issues that come with pet obesity and have recently shared a rescue story about a very overweight dog named Nelly.

Nelly, a 10-year-old Bulldog, was brought into the care of Battersea as a stray when she was found tied up in a park with a note that simply read ‘sorry’. At 32 kilograms, she weighed the same as the average 10-year-old child which is around 10 kilograms above the healthy weight for a female Bulldog.

During her stay at Battersea, Nelly had to undergo surgery to open up her airways as she was struggling to breathe, which is a common problem amongst flat-faced breeds. However, vets believe Nelly’s extra weight hindered her breathing even further, making it difficult for her to exercise and shift weight.

Pet obesity is something we see a lot here at Battersea, and research shows more than half of British dogs are overweight, so this is something every pet owner needs to be aware of

Battersea vet Claire Turner says, “The most common reason that pets become overweight is eating too much food and not getting enough exercise.”

“Much like humans, pet calorie intake and expenditure need to be balanced to maintain a healthy weight. Nelly’s been on a strict diet and a gentle exercise regime at Battersea, as we need to help her peel off the pounds, while being careful with her breathing. Pet obesity is something we see a lot here at Battersea, and research shows more than half of British dogs are overweight, so this is something every pet owner needs to be aware of.

Nelly at her new home

“Pet obesity can cause serious health issues, so – if you think your cat or dog might be overweight – it’s best to consult your vet, who will be able to assess your pet and advise you on how to help them lose the extra pounds.”

Luckily, Nelly has been rehomed and will share her happy ending with Roz Funnell in Hertfordshire, who said “After losing my old Battersea dog, Millie, to a heart attack last year and then having a hip replacement in the summer, I was in absolutely no rush to rehome another dog. But, on a visit to Battersea with my nephew in November I saw Nelly walk past, and it was love at first sight.”

Nelly and Roz

“When I got the call to say that she was medically cleared to be rehomed I was absolutely over the moon. I’ve been waiting for her for such a long time, but it was so worth it. All of the staff at Battersea have done an excellent job of looking after her, making sure that she was healthy enough to finally come home.”

“I have a fantastic vet who will help me set a diet plan for Nelly, and hopefully with some gentle exercise we can both get a little bit fitter together!”

When it comes to healthy weight management prevention is better than a cure, and to prevent obesity, you need to spot it early. There are a few simple things you can do to make sure your dog maintains a healthy weight:

1) Speak to your local vet about your dog’s ideal body weight – they can advise you on feeding amounts as they change from pups through to old age
2) Ensure they get enough exercise – this will depend on their size and breed type
3) Skip the table scraps – not all human food is safe for pets and some can even be deadly
4) Weigh your dog – even slight increases in weight can have a big impact on their health

Images by Battersea 

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