Pet obesity a growing worry

Parents often indulge their furry pets, unaware of the health risks

Obesity in pets is most likely caused by their lifestyle and overfeeding,though sometimes they might have thyroid problems too. Swimming is agreat way for pets to burn calories.

Chubby dogs and fluffy cats may look adorable, but packing in those extra kilos may be harmful to your pet babies. Experts agree obesity in pets is increasing in the country.

Caroline Anil, parent to 13 dogs and eight cats, says people tend to overfeed their pets because they are unaware of animals’ nutritional requirements.

“A fully grown dog only needs to feed once a day. Make sure they have enough water to drink during the day. And avoid giving them a lot of rice,” she advises.

Allowing dogs to run around so they tire themselves out is important, she adds. “If you don’t have space for them to run about, take them for walks. Exercise helps their physical and mental health. Dogs that are sad also tend to put on more weight,” she says.

One of her dogs has put on weight after it was spayed, she says. “The vet usually tells you how to handle their diet after the surgery. If you pay heed, your pets will be fine,” she adds.

Dr Lohith HD, surgeon at Bangalore Pet Hospital, says the caloric requirements of a dog reduces once it is neutered.

“Pet parents tend to go by emotions, and that doesn’t help. Listen to your pet’s doctors, or read up,” he says.

Sometimes, obesity in pets could be caused by thyroid problems. However, in most cases, obesity is linked to lifestyle.

“Most pet owners think they can feed their pets whatever they eat themselves. What your pet need nutritionally is very different,” he says.

The Purina Body Score is a guide followed by vets all over the world. It tells you what the ideal body weight should be of each breed of dogs and cats.

If you choose to give your pets home-cooked meals, be sure to consult a vet beforehand, he suggests. They will be able to provide clarity on the needs of your pet based on their breed and age.

Pet obesity can lead to diabetes, joint pain, paw issues, hair fall, respiratory problems and heart issues, he adds.

Obesity in cats is a concerning issue, says Dr Lohith. However, unlike your dog, you cannot tie a leash and take your cat out for a walk. “Leave toys around that they can play with. Even when you are home, keep them occupied,” he explains.

Treesa Shaju, mom to Mia, a seven-month-old indie cat, says Persian cats and elite breeds tend to put on weight.

“You can purchase a cat perch and motorised toys that keep them occupied,” she says. Parents should give cats the space to move around, instead of locking them up in a room.

“Let your cats go out, enjoy the sun, play around and come back. They might get lost the first few times, but they eventually get the routine. And don’t worry, they will always come back home,” she says. Home-cooked meals are better than packaged food, she says.

Don’t give in to puppy eyes

Neeti Kheny, parent of Maltese dogs Sushi and Yuki, says people tend to indulge their dogs more than they should.
“A treat here and there, over time, adds up to more than you imagine. I am strict with my dogs, but my husband isn’t. Most people just fall for puppy eyes and give them treats and food from their plate. They don’t realise they are harming the dog,” she explains.
She also advises against leaving treat-dispensing toys with pooches when they are alone.

“Once the dog figures out that the toy will give him treats, he will misuse it because he doesn’t know any better. Unless dogs go on a hike or run daily, they don’t really need treats through the day,” she says.

Maltese dogs are small and come under the toy group, which means that being over 4 kg is considered overweight for them.

“My vet gave me a good rule of thumb. If you feed them kibble, at the back of the packet they usually have a guide of how much to feed them for each weight group. So if you need your dog to lose weight, measure the food according to the goal weight,” she says.

Making an assessment of your lifestyle is an important step before adopting pets, she adds.

“If you live in a small house and get a husky, it just doesn’t work. Taking him on a morning walk alone won’t be enough and it is not fair to him,” she says.

Walk your dog every day

Walking, experts agree, is the best form of exercise for dogs. However, if you don’t have the time for it, fret not. There are dog walkers in the city who can help you.

Innocent Deva Amrith, founder of Kennel Philanskis and certified dog trainer, walks a lab and a Rottweiler every day. They are both heavy dogs, difficult to handle. In fact, their owner had failed multiple times taking them out for walks. “As a dog trainer, I know how to handle them and also prevent such situations,” he says.

Some of his clients are unable to remain committed to their pets’ routine. A few are unable to keep up with their dogs because of medical conditions. “For bigger dogs, a one-hour walk is a must. Most people just take them out for 10 minutes, but that is not enough,” he says.

If daily walks are not possible, alternate day runs are a good option. Running every day is not good for the pet’s joints and muscles, he warns.

For overweight dogs, swimming is a great option, as it requires less effort, but at the same time burns calories. “Once they become obese it is difficult to get them back in shape. As they mature, they become used to a certain pattern and their metabolism adjusts accordingly. It is always best never to let them get to that point,” he says.

 

Dog walkers on call

Innocent Deca Amrith, part-time dog walker, says that people have become more open to the idea of having a stranger walk their dog. However, many are unaware about where to find the service. Anvisinc (www.anvisinc.com) is a Bengaluru-based company that trains dog walkers, and maintains a database of walkers in each area.

Dog walkers are paid monthly, but charge per hour. Amrith charges Rs 250 to Rs 300 to walk a large dog such as a lab or a St Bernard. For smaller dogs, he charges Rs 150 to Rs 200. The prices also vary if the dog is more aggressive and calls for extra effort, he says.

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