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Are Lockdown Restrictions Making Our Pets Become Overweight?

Sadly, pets who become overweight face all sorts of health problems in the same way that their owners do. 

And lockdown restrictions in different parts of the world at various times are adding to this problem with some owners said to be feeding their pets more treats and taking them on less walks while working from home. 

What are the reasons for this happening?

  • Owners put extra snacking down to the fact that they are spending more time with their pets and, if those pets are dogs, they just cannot resist their begging eyes!  
  • Other reasons given for extra treats include trying to keep pets quiet during important conference calls and to stop them barking when home deliveries arrive.
  • Research has found that pets with male owners have gained more weight than those with female owners.

The downside of pets putting on weight

Dogs that don’t get enough exercise can develop behavioural problems such as licking too much or chewing things.

Dr Helen Whiteside, Head of Research at Guide Dogs, says:

Our research has shown that lockdown has had a significant impact on many dogs’ health and wellbeing. And while a little weight gain is not the end of the world, it is important that owners address it as soon as possible, to prevent medical issues like heart disease, diabetes and joint problems later down the line.  A healthier dog is a happier dog, so owners should prioritise daily walks, consider healthy treat swaps and check their weight on a regular basis.

How to help your dog lose weight

  • Think about getting a vet check to get an accurate weight and ask for a body condition score.  Your dog should ideally sit in the middle at a ‘4’ or ‘5’.  If it is out of shape, ask your vet’s advice before stepping up their exercise.
  • Weigh your dog’s food allowance on digital scales, following the guidelines from the food’s manufacturer. It’s very easy to over- or underfeed using a cup measure or going by eye.  If you don’t know how many calories your pet needs each day, you don’t know how much to feed.  Unfortunately, the instructions on the bag are formulated for adult, un-spayed or un-neutered active dogs and cats.  And if your pet clearly does not come under that description, it makes sense to calculate the proper number of calories your pet needs each day.   You may need the help of your vet but a good starting point is to divide your pet’s weight by 2.2. Multiply this figure by 30. Add 70 and you’ve got a general idea of how many calories you should be feeding.  After you calculate how many calories your pet needs, determine how much food you should feed each meal – and measure it. 
  • Make sure your dog gets active.  At the very least, adult dogs need at least an hour a day when they are running around or walking at a fast pace, helping to boost immune function, improve cardiovascular health and reduce many behavioral problems.  If they are out of shape, gradually build them up to longer walks being careful to to avoid going out in hot weather, wait until cooler evenings.  Do yourself and your dog a favor and commit to daily walks, rain or shine. The health benefits of walking extend to both ends of the leash.  For cats, try playing with a laser pointer, remote-controlled toy or ball of paper for 5 to 15 minutes each day. 
  • Have you heard about interactive feeders - over a bowl?  Another idea is to use stuffable toys and puzzle feeders to make your dog’s meal last longer while helping them avoid gulping food, which can cause stomach problems.  In addition, such gadgets are mentally stimulating and a great workout for your dog’s brain.
  • Make healthy swaps for treats, looking for single ingredient treats including sweet potato, salmon and blueberry bites or functional treats that provide a bonus such as helping to keep teeth clean or promote mobility.  Other suggestions include baby carrots, green beans, celery, broccoli, cucumbers, sliced apples and bananas or ice cubes. Make sure you adjust your pet’s daily food allowance to allow for these treats.  At the same time, break such treats into much smaller pieces to go further!  Only give treats as a reward for good behaviour.
  • Supplements for pets?  Dogs and cats can benefit from taking a daily omega-3 fatty acid supplement. These powerful fish oils pack a potent anti-oxidant punch that has been proven to help prevent and treat numerous diseases while helping to ease achy joints and even encourage weight loss. L-carnitine is a supplement that has been shown to aid weight loss and promote lean muscle mass in some studies. 

5 top tips to sum up!

  1. Cut back on calories.
  2. Switch to a low-carb, high-protein food.
  3. Add fiber to your dog's diet.
  4. Provide plenty of fresh water and
  5. Reward with fun, not food!

 Sources