Pet Health: Has your pet put on weight in lockdown?

New research revealed at the end of last year, found a concerning one-third of our owners with a cat or dog that was overweight, said their beloved pets had gained weight during the coronavirus pandemic.

The research, which was a joint study between Hill’s Pet Nutrition and Keltan Global found that weight gain in our pets was not just common, but had a similarity between all cases, us owners.

Brits, rightly so, have a strong relationship with pets, with dogs and cats remaining our most popular pets. We consider our pets part of the family, a loved one, a confident and during the pandemic, a reliable source of support and love. But has this, or is it still, causing an issue with the health of our furry friends?

Needless to say, many of us would have been very lonely without our beloved pets and whilst they shower us with love, and we smother them with a healthy portion of cuddles and kisses, it appears, according to the pet professional surveyed, that we have also showered them with an unhealthy portion of their favourite treats – in fact, 20 percent of professionals said the pet’s owners admitted to over-treating their furry friends.

But, do we notice, and can we identify when our pets are overweight? Three out of four owners feel they could detect their pets weight gain, but only twelve percent have discussed the issue with their vet.

What the vet survey found:

According to the 200 vets that were surveyed, forty-five percent of dogs seen since the pandemic began are overweight, with cats at forty-three percent. That’s nearly half of all pets coming to a vet surgery being diagnosed as overweight. So, is the pandemic causing a weight gain epidemic in our pets and what can we do now to make sure we are tackling our podgy pooches and cuddly kitties?

The two factors that came from the survey that offered insight into the weight gain of pets were:

  • Excess Snacking
  • Lack of Exercise

Excess Snacking:

We have all been guilty of putting on a few pounds as we work from home with the ever-tempting treat drawer calling out to us. But now it seems that this is the case with our pets too. Whilst we shower them with love, we like to thank them with treats. What we tend to forget is that excess treats, will inevitably lead to health complications which include weight gain. Thirty percent of pet owners felt their pets were ‘needier’ during the pandemic, with a quarter claiming they were bored and with both scenarios would treat their pets to keep them happy.

Lack of Exercise:

The lockdown restrictions, which have been in place for a year, have caused a routine shift with pet owners, particularly in dogs. Visits to their favourite woodland, to the beach or in a field were restricted if they weren’t within five miles of home. One dog walk per day was all that was permitted for our furry friends. Top that with increasingly cold, wet, windy, and icy weather of the winter and pets were not even close to getting the exercise that they need.

What can we do now to help our furry friends lose pandemic pounds?

Dogs: The weather is changing; spring is here, and summer is just around the corner. Restrictions are being lifted, so it is time to get out and burn the bulk (works for your dog and you!). Exercise for dogs is always advisable after each meal when your pooch will require his or her toilet trip. That could be first thing in the morning when the sun has just come up, and in the evening as the sun goes down. Go that few extra metres. Track your steps on your dog walks. You do not have to buy any specific or expensive gadgets; your phone can easily and accurately track the walks. Work with your pooch – but please be conscious of older dogs – and increase both your exercise and your dog’s exercise every few days. Set targets and goals – and aim to beat them. PitPat is a great addition to your dog’s collar and is available free with certain insurance provides.

Lay off the treats. Treats should remain a reward for good behaviour, not to show your beloved that you love them. Reward them with a cuddle. Snuggle up on the floor, a sofa, or their bed with them. All your pooch wants, and needs, is your love, they expect nothing else.

Cats: Owners of cuddly kitties admit they find it more difficult to combat weight gain in their furry loved ones. But there are some useful tips to get them moving – so there is not always a need to take them out on a lead. Firstly, treats. Treats should reward good behaviour and be few and far between for cats. If you think your cat is made happier by food, some of the tips below may help with that.

  • Hide their meals: Cats love food, and when hungry they are natural hunters. Rather than feed your cat in the same place every day, hide their food and add an element of ‘hunting’ to give your furry friend some exercise.
  • Portion Control: Cat’s metabolisms work well with little and often. If you can, spread out meals into three to four sittings, with smaller portions to reduce gluttonous behaviour and encourage less grazing.
  • Add water: Adding water to their food will give your cat the impression they are fuller than they are, reducing their intake.
  • Get a treat toy: Cat treat toys are effective in getting some exercise into your cat’s day – and controls treat intake. The challenge is fun, the exercise goes unnoticed and if they work hard, they get a nice treat. Check out the Kitty Kong from Kong Products.
  • Indoor cats suffer hardest from weight issues, so it is advisable to add challenges to your cat’s day. Keep toys in a different room to encourage searching and get as many toys as possible that allows interaction with them, so you know they have playtime throughout the day. Aim to play with your cat for 15-20 minutes per day.
  • Prevent food theft: Having multiple pets in your home can lead to greedy pets munching every animal’s meals. There are some great innovations in food bowl technologies, with some using microchip technology preventing any of your other pets getting into the other bowls. Check these out from Sure PetCare who offer a variety of options. A great investment if you are monitoring your cat’s feeding habits.

Consult your vet:

The above are just some tips and guidance, it is advisable that if you feel that your dog, cat, or any of your furry friends are overweight, to consult a vet. As with humans, being overweight can lead to more complications and a vet may be able to provide you with a diet plan and professional advice suited specifically for your pet.