Is your pet the right weight? 7 reasons why it matters and how to ensure they are

Is your pet the right weight? 7 reasons why it matters and how to ensure they are
Is your pet the right weight? 7 reasons why it matters and how to ensure they are
We love making our pets happy but there’s a chance we could be under or overfeeding them without even knowing

From their personality quirks to their build, breed and behaviour, our pets are all unique. They’re our closest friends, companions and playmates all rolled into one, and as such, we’d do anything for them.

That might include feeding them the odd treat under the table or the leftovers that make them lick their lips, altogether giving them as much food as their hearts desire because we just hate to see them beg.

But how can we be sure we’re not overfeeding them? In the UK, it is estimated that around 65% of dogs and 39% of cats are overweight (1) yet unlike the way we control our own diets, our furry friends can’t tell us when their weight starts to affect their health.

Almost two thirds of vets say obesity is the biggest health and welfare concern for our pets (2), which is why Royal Canin is determined to help owners work out exactly the right weight for their dogs and cats.

‘There is an easy way to have a healthy, happy pet that will enjoy life for many years to come,’ says Lindsay Calcraft, Royal Canin ® Weight Management Specialist. ‘It just takes the right nutrition plus some simple lifestyle and habitual changes. Royal Canin can help with both.’

Putting health at the centre of pets’ nutrition for over 50 years, Royal Canin uses science and observation to determine their precise nutritional needs and devise recipes formulated to make them their best.

Not only that, but they’ve combined feeding advice with veterinary-approved tools to help owners check a pet’s weight while they develop, because losing weight is much more challenging than healthy maintenance.

All pet owners value the health and wellbeing of their animals immensely, yet over 50% of pets in the UK are overweight
All pet owners value the health and wellbeing of their animals immensely, yet over 50% of pets in the UK are overweight

Here’s why achieving the perfect pet weight really matters and how every one of us can help our beloved companions stay healthy.

Early kitten nutrition benefits them for a lifetime

Right from day one, puppies and kittens benefit from healthy habits and behaviours like optimum feeding and exercise.

The key to kitten nutrition is the right mix of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals in their food to help them develop from fragile young kittens to strong cats, therefore laying the foundations for a healthy life.

In the initial few months of intense growth, they need a diet rich in antioxidants to build immunity. Later, protein-rich foods are important for building muscle, skeleton and other tissues because without them, it can cause bone and joint issues. Royal Canin Kitten Nutrition is specifically tailored to the first year of life, providing the nutrients essential for growth and development

It's not caused by a lack of care, but pet owners are sometimes unaware of what a healthy weight is for their pet
It’s not caused by a lack of care, but pet owners are sometimes unaware of what a healthy weight is for their pet

Setting healthy puppy habits avoids overeating later in life

For puppies, correct portion sizing is important for reaching each different developmental stage at the right time. Balanced correctly with exercise, they can achieve the correct weight for their breed and age, as well as avoiding any precursors to later life ailments.

Outside of mealtimes, good eating habits can last a lifetime. For example, saying no to any begging behaviour helps keep their food intake in check, while treating treats as part of their daily portion of food (no more than 10% of their daily calorie ration) avoids weight creeping up.

Losing weight is more challenging than maintaining a healthy weight

In much the same way as humans, it’s harder to lose the pounds than it is to gain them so checking your pet’s weight is important throughout their lives. Weighing your pet isn’t the only way to check if they are over or underweight; vets use a technique called Body Condition Scoring.

‘Excess weight puts a pet at risk of many associated diseases and the latest research shows it can even shorten their life expectancy,’ Lindsay continues. ‘If you aren’t sure if your pet is at its ideal weight, we’d recommend you contact your veterinary practice for a Body Condition Score assessment.’

At Royal Canin, calculating a dog’s body condition score is easy using their useful online tool. They advise looking at your pet from above to observe the curve of their waist and applying a light touch to your dog’s ribs to ensure there isn’t too much fat covering them.

A cat body condition score is measured on a nine-point scale where the optimum level is a well-proportioned pet with an obvious waist and slight abdominal tuck. Here, ribs are not visible but easy to touch under a small fat coverage.

Royal Canin UK is helping pet owners to check the correct weight for their cat or dog with useful pet feeding advice and body condition score information
Royal Canin UK is helping pet owners to check the correct weight for their cat or dog with useful pet feeding advice and body condition score information

Overfeeding contributes to weight gain, which may lead to health issues

For cats, human food and regular treats should all be considered within portioning because they can quickly contribute to an increase in body weight, which may shorten their life expectancy and put them at risk of diabetes, osteoarthritis, or urinary tract disease.

To maintain a healthy weight for a cat, pay attention to recommended portion sizes on pet food packaging, especially for indoor cats who lead quite sedentary lifestyles that require less energy. Portions are often smaller than you think and cats will typically self-regulate their eating, returning to their bowls up to 20 times a day, so there’s no need to refill if they run out!

If your dog asks for food all the time, it doesn’t always mean they’re hungry

It’s easy to underestimate how much you’re actually feeding your dog, especially when human food slips into their diet. It’s not recommended that the foods we typically eat, such as meat or leftovers, make it into their bowls because it may upset the nutritional balance and increase their calorie intake.

Instead, just like cats, the key to achieving an ideal dog weight is correct portion sizing because even though their puppy dog eyes may suggest they are underfed, it may actually be a sign of boredom, attention-seeking or just a habit that giving in will encourage.

Every Royal Canin portion is tailored to include everything they need and packaging is always a good starting point for calculating quantities that suit your pet’s age and size.

From big dogs to little ones, older friends to young ones, dogs need different levels of exercise depending on their breed and things change as they get older in much the same way as their nutritional needs
From big dogs to little ones, older friends to young ones, dogs need different levels of exercise depending on their breed and things change as they get older in much the same way as their nutritional needs

Different dog breeds have varying exercise requirements… and it changes with age

An active dog who gets the right amount of exercise for their age and breed will find it easier to maintain a healthy weight as it helps to balance their food intake and energy expenditure.

Older dogs and smaller breeds, like King Charles Spaniels, may only need 30 minutes’ exercise in the morning or evening, whereas younger dogs and larger breeds, such as Golden Retrievers, thrive on two or more energetic sessions every day, which can quickly become a part of everyday family life.

Maintaining a healthy weight can improve their quality of life

While a Body Condition Score is a great way to calculate your pet’s ideal weight, observing their behaviour and mood can give a good indication of whether their weight is negatively affecting them.

‘Being above ideal weight can reduce a pet’s enjoyment of life more than their owners realise,’ says specialist Lindsay. ‘A pet’s playtimes usually involve running, jumping, and climbing. Being above ideal weight limits their speed, agility, and energy for play, decreasing their quality of life.’

Cats who are overweight may get lethargic or tired quickly, for example. If they seem disinterested in play, perhaps they’re not getting enough energy from their food or excess weight is already starting to hold them back.

Overall, maintaining a healthy weight for your pet can not only improve their life span but their quality of life, making them happier and more playful – which is all we could possibly ask for!

SOURCES

  1. PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report 2017 https://www.pdsa.org.uk/media/3290/pdsa-paw-report-2017_online-3.pdf
  2. British Veterinary Association https://www.bva.co.uk/news-and-blog/news-article/pet-obesity-epidemic-is-top-welfare-concern-for-vets/

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Author: Royal Canin