FEATURE: It’s A Vet’s Life

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Obesity in pets is an all-year issue but it can be worse at this time of year when we are all having little extra treats.

Many owners have an overwhelming urge to include their pets and, before you know it, the dog or cat could also be joining the ‘must lose weight’ club in the new year.

Sadly, the damage to an animal’s organs when carrying extra weight can be far greater than humans and often results in illness.

For example, an overweight dog could quickly develop diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes).

This condition in overweight animals is made all the harder to maintain because they can’t tell us what they are feeling. 

In a diabetic animal they can have hypoglycaemic episodes when there is not enough insulin and the animal can become lethargic and shake.

Obesity can also put extra pressure on the heart to pump the blood and oxygen around the body, resulting in a permanent heart condition that in some cases requires a lifetime of medication – apart from the obvious stress for the animal’s body. Veterinary medication can be very expensive so, again, bear this in mind when you are giving those treats.

DIET: If you put more food and calories in than the pet is burning off, the weight will go on . Over a period of time the weight becomes harder to lose and so the circle begins.

Feed smaller portions and consider the time of day you feed your pet. Don’t feed a large meal at teatime as the animal has less chance to burn it off. Feed it in the morning and give them the day to burn it off. But don’t interfere with a diet if it’s set for medicine administration reasons such as diabetes.

Do bear in mind, though, that there are some medical conditions that can result in weight gain. If your pet is fed a controlled diet and hasn’t had any titbits or human food but is gaining weight we would always urge you to have a vet take a look.

EXERCISE: Walks and activities will burn calories off so if your dog is able, extend that walk a little further. This won’t harm either party!

QUESTION

Why won’t my puppy walk on his lead?

ANSWER

The first step in lead training is to get the puppy used to a collar. Your puppy will scratch at the collar until he gets used to it. Try putting the collar on when the puppy is eating and playing under your supervision. This will help distract the puppy from thinking about it.

Remove the collar only at a time when the puppy is not trying to get out of it. Just like wearing a watch or a ring, this feels strange to you at first, the strange sensation of a collar can annoy a puppy. 

Once your puppy is used to a collar add the lead. Start by walking your puppy around the house and garden and make it a rewarding experience for the dog – a good hug or single piece of kibble for training will go a long way.

If your puppy sits down when you start to walk then walk backwards level to the puppy and coax them to take a step or two forward. Once they have mastered this then you can increase the praise and the distance.