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The problem of obesity: cats and dogs

24th July 2017 Print

Our pets are our world. Just like we reward our children with treats and toys, it’s very easy for us to show our affection by slipping an extra scoop of food into our dogs and cats bowl or giving them a few more treats.

However, what we may think is just a bit extra can actually be harming our pets’ health. Obesity is becoming a very real issue for Britain’s animals. According to research by the PDSA, one third of dogs and a quarter of cats are overweight — a statistic that is expected to grow in the coming months.

But why are our pets suffering? The PDSA attribute the growing number of overweight pets to Britain’s junk food lifestyle. As we gorge on takeaway food and sugary snacks, so are our pets as we share our treats with them. While we think we’re being kind, we’re actually being far from it.

While an overweight pet may simply look cuddlier, the health implications are numerous. If your pet is carrying excess weight, they will likely find it more difficult to get around. The may suffer more in warm weather, and appear more lethargic than they once were. 

The above are just the visible symptoms of pet obesity — it can also lead to serious conditions like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and respiratory diseases. 

Your animal’s weight can be influenced by a number of factors—not just its diet. Things like breed, age, sex and whether it has been neutered or not can all play a part. However, the most common cause of obesity in pets is diet—and, as an owner, it’s your duty to do all you can to ensure they get the right nutrients in the right quantity.

This is often easier said than done so, to help, we have enlisted the help of dog food retailer Feedem — who offers a range of grain free dog food — to share some tips:

Is my pet obese?

Before you can determine the best course of action, you must first establish whether your pet is overweight. Here’s how to examine your cats and dogs to check their weight:


- Ribs, spine and hip bones should be easily seen and felt.

- When looking from above, the waist should be clearly visible.

- The stomach should only have a small amount of fat and shouldn’t sag.


- The outline of your dog’s ribs should be easy to see and feel.

- When looking from above, the waist should be clearly visible.

- From the side, your dog’s stomach should be tucked up.

If your pet fails any of the above checks, the temptation is to immediately put them on a diet. However, you should always speak to your vet to get their advice before any action is taken.

How can my pet lose weight?

In general, there are two ways your pet can lose weight: limiting their diet and increasing the amount of exercise they receive.

It’s really important to feed your pet a food that’s suitable for their age, lifestyle and health status. If not, it will be difficult for them to get the nutrients they require. Generally, cats require a meat-based, well-balanced diet, while dogs will need a balanced diet. Most human food does not nutritionally support cats or dogs, so should be avoided.

Monitor the amount of food you’re giving your pet. Cats usually prefer several small meals a day, while a dog should be fed at least once or as advised by a vet. Always read and follow the feeding instructions given on the pet food.

When it comes to exercise, the amount your dog needs will vary between breeds. For example, smaller breeds like a pug, a bichon frise or shih tzu will need around 20 minutes exercise, excluding indoor play. Larger breeds like dalmations, boxers and border collies will need more than two hours. Take a look at this graphic from the PDSA to find out how much exercise other breeds require.

You can up your cat’s exercise by encouraging them to play with cat toys. This should get them jumping, pouncing and leaping around.