Obesity in our pets – when does an extra bit of weight become an issue?

We all love our pets and want to make sure they are happy and healthy; but sometimes, we can love them a little too much. It is important therefore, for owners to understand what is the correct weight and what the impact of being overweight is having on their pets.

According to recent studies 1:14 dogs in the UK are overweight – but what impact is this having for your pet and for us as vets? Just like people, carrying a little too much can be detrimental to the health of your dog and their quality of life so we encourage owners to keep their pets slim and healthy. Overweight dogs are much more likely to suffer from: arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, high blood pressure, cancer and are at an increased risk during anaesthetics. In fact, a 2006 study revealed overweight dogs had as much as two years reduced from their life span!

So what causes a dog to become overweight? There are some predisposing factors that make your dog more susceptible to weight gain: dogs who are middle ages, being neutered and their lifestyle. These things increase the likelihood but do not directly cause your dog to become overweight. The cause itself is too many calories and/or not enough exercise.

So how can you avoid your dog getting a little too chunky? Always research breeds of dog and ensure you can provide the right amount of exercise for that breed. If you struggle to get the walks in you can always try looking into a dog walker to help get you dogs step count up. Feed an appropriate diet and always read the bag to check how much food your dog requires per day, try to always weigh the food out so you know you aren’t overfeeding. There is nothing wrong with giving your dog treats but just remember not to over do it (as much as your dog might give you those big, sad eyes) and if you give treats daily remember to take that out of their daily food allowance. When neutering your pet, we advise monitoring your dog’s weight and reducing food if needed post-surgery to prevent weight gain.

Is my dog the right weight? It is important owners know how to tell if their pets weight is appropriate. With overweight pups becoming more and more common it can warp our view of how our dogs should look. When you feel your dog their ribs should be easy to palpate with a minimal amount of fat covering them (but shouldn’t be visible from a distance). When looking from above, the waist should come in nicely behind the rib cage and from the side view the waist should come up behind the ribs but hip bones and spine should have coverage. If you aren’t sure if your dog’s weight is right – just ask us.

What to do if your dog has gained a few too many kgs? Please come and see one of our nurses for advice on weight loss. We will help you work out a plan that works for you and your dogs lifestyles. We all know how tricky getting that perfect figure is for our pets so please never feel judged – we do understand and we will do our best to help you. We know they love their food, just remember they don’t know the consequences so as much as saying no might feel mean – you’re doing them a kindness and they will still love you after.

Written by Georgie RVN

Foreign bodies – what do we do?

We all love our house to be clean, but sometimes this can present a hazard to our pets as well as ourselves! Plastic bottles of cleaning products can look like fun chew toys to dogs, however they can have residual product in them that can be very harmful. Bleaches can burn mouths and skin and can be very damaging if they get into eyes. Emergency treatment involves washing products off skin and out of mouth and seeking urgent veterinary attention.

By Spring your dog will have probably managed to get that squeaker out of their new Christmas toy. Some dogs can be daft enough to swallow those squeakers or any other small items! We refer to these as foreign bodies. You may not notice these things being eaten or missing so often these pets will present with lethargy and persistent vomiting (because the foreign object is blocking the way through the stomach or the guts). We usually advise x-rays in these cases because often we can see clues for a blockage. If the blockage does not look like it will pass we usually have to perform surgery to remove the offending articles. It is most usual for dogs to eat abnormal non-food items, however the author’s first “foreign body surgery” was to remove a small conker from a cat’s intestine!

If your animal is brought to a veterinary surgery within 3 hours (as soon as possible) of swallowing something abnormal we will usually induce vomiting to try and get as much of it out as possible. (There are some exceptions to this rule). The drug that is used to make dogs vomit can also cause them to feel drowsy afterwards. The author has even seen dogs fall asleep in between vomiting! If we are satisfied most of the foreign material has come out and it has been very recently ingested we will usually discharge your animal with some activated charcoal. Activated charcoal mops up any toxin that might be left to prevent it from being absorbed. If we are concerned the toxin has been absorbed we usually advise hospitalising your pet for a minimum of 24 hours on fluid therapy to help “flush out” the toxin. There are rarely any anti-toxins so treatment is usually symptomatic and supportive. All vets have access to a Veterinary Poisons Service where there is a huge database of all potential toxins. In cases of unusual intoxication we can ring this service for advice.