October is Pet Obesity Month and Hill’s Pet Nutrition is shining the light on this, as obesity remains the number one health problem faced by South African pets.

There are a few things pet parents can do to not only help their pet reach their ideal weight, but also to maintain it. “A pet often gains weight gradually, and pet parents don’t even notice it until someone else points it out.” Says Marycke Ackhurst, pet behavior expert from Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

Things pet parents can do to help their pets reach their ideal weight:

Accept the feeding amounts on the pet food packaging as a guideline only. Each pet is different and therefore their food allowance may differ. Lifestyle, age and health all play a role in the amount of food your pet should be consuming. If you aren’t sure, chat to your vet who will be able to guide you or visit petslimmer.co.za.

Check your pet’s body condition score on a regular basis and adjust feeding accordingly. Pet parents can visit PetSlimmer.co.za for guidance on how to do this.

Ackhurst says that weighing your pet at home can be challenging depending on your pet’s size and nature.

Weigh yourself first, then, if you are able to pick your pet up, weigh the both of you. Then, subtract your weight from the combined total to gauge your pet’s weight.

Knowing when your pet is overweight

Being able to feel your pet’s ribs without pressure is the most important guideline. It should feel like running your hand over your slightly arched knuckles.

Daily activity is important – whether it be a walk, playing in the garden or an activity that uses your pet’s brain, to use up energy.

Remember that in general it is healthier for your pet to be a little underweight rather than a little overweight.

“Something that many pet parents don’t know is that when their puppy or kitten is sterilised their food needs to be adjusted, as they have a reduction in their energy requirements immediately,” advises Ackhurst.  As pets get older and become less active, their energy needs also lessen and so should their food intake.

A growing trend that Ackhurst identifies is ‘ditching the food bowl’ and though it may not be suitable for all pets and pet parents, it can help pets lose weight and keep in shape. The main principle of this concept is to make the pet work for their entire, or at least half, of their daily food consumption. Their food allowance can be used either while training or playing training games.

Food enrichment toys such as treat balls, puzzles or even games such as hide and seek where the pet parent hides the food in different locations and the pet needs to find it are all good ways to burn up energy. “Remember to start on a very easy level and then to increase the level of difficulty as your pet grasps the concept. If you start out on a difficult level your pet may get frustrated and give up,” advises Ackhurst.

Some other ways Ackhurst suggests pet parents can keep their pets active are to incorporate active training games into daily activities, providing food dispensing toys, play fetch games and tug of war.

South African vets are continuously faced with patients who are overweight and have related health problems. In fact, more than half of the patients they treat are overweight. “It is important for pet parents to remember that the feeding guidelines are only a starting point and will need to be adjusted regularly to make sure pets stay in shape. Just as each human is different so are our pets and the amount of energy they require per day,” concludes Ackhurst.

For more information on how to keep your pet’s healthy, visit the Hill’s Pet Slimmer

This blog post is sponsored by Hill’s Pet Nutrition

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