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Why Our Pets Get Fat

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So, after reading last week's column, you now know (if you didn't already) that an overweight pet is not a healthy pet. If you're an owner of such a pet, you're probably wondering to yourself how on earth your beloved Fluffy became so chunky! You may even be thinking to yourself that it seems impossible, as you're SO careful about what you feed and he really doesn't eat very much anyway!

Well, here are a few things to consider that may prompt a spark of recognition in your mind as you try and understand how your pooch or kitty ended up carrying those extra pounds.

  1. Remember, a cup of food depends on the cup! When instructions on the bag of dog or cat food refer to the number of cups to feed per day, it is an actual measuring cup... not just any cup or mug will do. So make sure you measure the amount correctly. 
  2. It's important to remember that the feeding guidelines on the back of pet food packaging are just that... guidelines. All animals are different; there is tremendous individuality with regard to how different pets store food they have eaten, so if your pet is too heavy on the recommended amount, reduce it by around twenty percent or switch to a diet higher in fiber.
  3. Genetics play a role in obesity in pets and some dog breeds that have genetic tendencies towards obesity include Beagles, Dachshunds, Cocker Spaniels, Labradors and Golden Retrievers.
  4. Having young children at home often exacerbates obesity in dogs who constantly get fed table scraps and are always loitering around to hoover up bits of biscuit and sandwiches that have been dropped on the floor. And of course children simply delight in feeding their pets treats at every possible moment - unfortunately, treats are packed with calories and four or five of them readily convert into an extra meal's worth of added fat!
  5. Some pets have slower metabolisms than others and don't burn calories efficiently. This may be genetic or may be as a result of disease such as Cushings or Hypothyroidism. If shedding those pounds is proving difficult, ask your vet about these conditions.
  6. Sterilisation or neutering can also slow metabolism, so it's important to keep this in mind when planning the feeding of your pet after these procedures have been done.
  7. People often mistake "lite" food for "diet" food. "Lite" diets are aimed to prevent weight gain, not to promote weight loss, and should be fed once the target weight has been reached. Specific veterinary weight loss diets followed strictly and with regular weigh-ins are the best way to return your pet to her optimum body condition.
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