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Pet obesity: A very big problem and the animals affected

13 October 2022

Pet obesity is a big problem, but unfortunately excess weight in our pets is something that a lot of people don’t see as an issue. Not only this, but it’s actually something that otherwise caring owners can contribute to, causing their animals unnecessary suffering. This Pet Obesity Day (yes, it’s a thing), let’s take a closer look at this very real problem, and meet two impacted animals currently in our care.

Pet obesity: A very big problem and the animals affected

While most animal lovers are quick to recognise and condemn underweight body conditions in animals, unfortunately the same cannot be said for responses to excess weight in pets.

On the contrary, many owners deem overweight animals as well loved and well provided for… if perhaps a little spoiled by their humans. Many consider overweight animals to be cute, glorifying their “chunky” size and in so doing turning a very real welfare issue into a joke.

Obesity in animals can lead to many health problems including arthritis, diabetes, skin problems, cardiovascular disease, and increased anaesthetic and surgical risks. It is also likely to compromise their exercise tolerance and predispose them to overheating.

Animals are suffering senselessly under the guise of being spoiled with treats and extra portions. It’s a serious problem, and one we need to talk about. Here at SPCA, we see up close the impacts felt by animals subjected to overfeeding. Here are two animals currently in our care

Honey's story

Honey came into our care after being given up by an owner who was no longer able to look after her. Despite this fact, Honey had previously been a beloved pet, something that had led to her being fed to excess.

Upon coming into SPCA’s care, Honey was immediately assessed by our vet team and deemed to be medically and “severely overweight.” She weighed in at over 9kg – that is double what a cat her size should be, with a healthy expected weight being 4.5kg.

Patience is essential with weight loss, especially for cats as they can develop serious medical conditions if put on a crash diet. Honey was put onto a special gradual weight loss diet, which is currently being undertaken in a foster home and monitored closely by both our veterinary team, and her dedicated foster parents. It will take some time to get Honey’s weight down to a safe number, and the family that eventually adopts this sweet girl will need to continue supporting her to keep her weight at a healthy level.

Kyra's story

Kyra the Rottweiler only came into the care of our SPCA Centre in Invercargill a couple of weeks ago, but it is the beginning of a long journey for her.

A dog of her breed, age and size should weigh in at around 35kg. Kyra weighs 48kg.

Kyra’s overweight condition is likely due to a lack of exercise in her life before coming into our care. Already, she shows signs of stiffness and lack of muscle, particularly in her hips. This often increases the chance of developing hip dysplasia, particularly in larger breeds like her. It can also cause early onset arthritis, due to carrying around extra weight on joints not designed for it.

She is also at risk of conditions just like Honey, from heart disease to diabetes. Living her life at this size is significantly reducing her life expectancy, which for her breed is typically between 8-10 years old. Worrying, as Kyra is already four! She deserves a better chance at life, and our Southland team is determined to give it to her.

Kyra is currently on a closely-monitored diet to help her lose weight, plus a regime of safe and fun exercise. This girl makes it clear how happy and active she would like to be – she just loves getting out and about! She’s an absolutely smooch and considers herself a lap dog – a bit of a challenge at her current size! But we know that once her weight is down to where it should be and she’s made available for adoption, she’ll be snapped up in no time.

So... what can you do to help?

There are a number of things New Zealanders can do to make sure that animals are less at risk of developing obesity, and to support safe weight loss in animals who are already overweight:

  • Educate yourself on what’s a healthy size for your animal’s breed

There is healthy weight, and excessive weight – know the difference. Of course different breeds are different sizes, but all breeds can fall victim to pet obesity if owners aren’t informed about what is a healthy size for them to be. Purina have created helpful guides to visually assess whether animals’ size is healthy – they have one for cats, and one for dogs.

  • Stop calling fat animals cute

It sounds silly, but social acknowledgement of an issue is a key way to tackle it. Resist the urge to label the overweight size of an animal as “cute,” and instead consider discreetly raising the welfare implications with owners. No owner who loves their pet would want to cause them any suffering, and most do not realise that is what they are doing by allowing their animals to gain excessive weight. We need to start talking about the harm this causes, not praising the size of unhealthy animals.

  • Feed your animal a healthy diet

Here at SPCA, we feed our animals Purina ONE to ensure they are receiving a high-quality diet. Speak to your vet about what is best for your pet, and resist the temptation to give them scraps of human food not suited to their digestive system, and excessive treats.

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