A recent poll of chartered veterinary physiotherapists, conducted by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), highlighted how owners may be unwittingly risking their pets’ health.
Some 82 per cent of members of the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy (ACPAT) told the CSP they feel the main cause of pet obesity is owners not following the correct feeding guidelines. Thirty seven per cent of those polled also felt that the number of overweight pets they’ve treated has increased in the last three years.
Both the CSP and ACPAT are warning owners about the urgent need to get their pet more active and following a better diet, before it’s too late. Louise Carson, chair of ACPAT, comments: “Many owners refuse to accept their pet is overweight, which means they continue to feed their animal too much, too often. Giving unhealthy treats to the pet too often could mean they are killing their pet with kindness by increasing the risk of heart and cardiovascular disease and putting unnecessary strain on joints and ligaments.”
Top tips for a healthy pet
Keeping in trim
A healthy pet should have a clearly defined waist, with no more than a quarter of an inch of fat visible over the ribcage. Customers should carefully follow the feeding instructions on the pets’ food, and if giving them a treat, this should be healthy or part of their daily food ration.
Play is important
Instead of giving animals treats, owners should spend time or play with their pets, as they will appreciate the attention far more than the extra food. Active play should be encouraged – cats like chasing a ball of wool or a feather, while dogs like seeking games where they hunt for a toy or a low-calorie treat.
Walking works wonders
All pets need regular exercise. For dogs, short, frequent walks are an excellent way to shift excess weight and can help owners to get in shape too. They should aim for a minimum of 30 minutes a day, which can be split into two or three walks if the dog is unfit or suffering from health problems. A chartered veterinary physiotherapist should be consulted before starting a new exercise regime, particularly if the animal has an existing health condition.
To keep the dog in tip-top shape, a toy should be used to encourage dogs to look slowly left and right while standing still. This will improve their co-ordination and general strength. If a dog gets muddy paws, another good exercise is to towel dry each leg in turn, with the owner asking the dog to remain standing on three legs, as this helps improve balance.
Get expert advice
If owners are concerned that their pets’ weight may be affecting their health or mobility, they should speak to a vet about a referral to an ACPAT physio.