Overfeeding an animal can be just as cruel as underfeeding.
Around 50 per cent of Britain's pets are overweight. These extra pounds - fat that affects their comfort and health - are usually the result of overeating. Most pet owners are guilty of slipping their pet the odd tid-bit and the problem is often worse at Christmas, when everyone is tempted to overindulge.
Fat pets have shorter lives, a reduced ability to withstand surgery or fight and recover from disease. Obesity causes or worsens conditions ranging from skin disease, heat intolerance, diabetes, arthritis, back and heart problems.
To find out if your dog or cat is overweight you can check with a few simple tests:
Stand above your cat or dog and check its waist - pets of the proper weight will have a visible indentation behind their ribs.
Place both hands, palms down, lightly on your cat's or dog's ribs. You should be able to feel the ribs, but they shouldn't be sticking out. If you can't feel the ribs, your pet is probably overweight.
Look for pouches of fat in the groin area between the hind legs.
It's not just cats and dogs that are affected -lots of roly-poly rabbits could also benefit from a calorie-controlled diet. Bunnies tend to eat only their favourite morsels from concentrated rabbit food, often leaving the healthier food behind. Another frequent problem is that they are not provided with sufficient space in which to exercise. Rabbits should have high roughage diets including lots of hay and grass, along with pellets. This keeps them slim and also helps prevent intestinal and dental disease.
Before putting your pet on a diet you must have it checked out by a vet. Your pet may be on medication or have an underlying medical problem that has influenced the weight gain.
Once your pet is diagnosed as overweight, try following these tips from the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition:Cut out all treats and table snacks during the weight loss period.
Divide the daily food allowance into two to four small meals.
Weigh your pet at the same time of day at least once a week. Keep a record.
Feed your pets one at a time to stop them eating leftovers.
Feed cats/dogs before you eat and keep them in another room during meals.
Don’t let your pet scavenge when outside. Make sure dustbins have secured lids.
Exercise your pet regularly.
Remember that chocolate is toxic to dogs! If you want to give your dog the occasional chocolate treat, stick to special doggie chocolate drops.