Are you overfeeding your pets?

Returning home to the heart-warming barks of your ecstatic dog, who wags his tail and covers your face in saliva, can be a tremendous treat. But how can you return the favour in this economic climate? Moneybags journalist, Isabelle Coetzee, finds out more.

The price of dog food and treats, as well as most other pets’ food, can take a large bite out of your salary. But according to South African vets, nearly half of pet owners are overfeeding their four-legged-friends.

As a result, many pets are suffering from obesity.

“This can be detrimental to the livelihood of our pets,” said Dr Carol McConnell, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for Nationwide Pet Insurance.

In addition to wasting money on unnecessary amounts of food, overfeeding your pet can also lead to other health related problems, and increased visits to your already-expensive veterinarian.

Sister Norma Boshoff, who runs a successful weight management clinic at Tygerberg Animal Hospital in Cape Town, explained that, “Excess weight puts pressure on the joints and we see a lot of hip, back and knee problems.”

She added that, “Many of our patients end up on chronic medication for pain as a result of being overweight.”

Owners struggle to identify weight-gain in their pets, which means they continue feeding their pets an unnecessary amount.

According to Dr Guy Fyvie, veterinary advisor to Hill’s Pet Nutrition South Africa, people don’t know what a pet at a healthy weight looks like anymore.

“It’s hard to be objective about those we love, and when you see your pet every day, gradual weight-gain may not be evident,” he said.

At their optimal weight, pets should have a visible waistline and, although their ribs shouldn’t protrude outwards, you should be able to feel them when you stroke your pets.

October is pet obesity month, and in light of this, vets across South Africa will offer free health assessments for your pets. To find out more, visit the Hills Pet Slimmer website.

Every year Hills Pet Slimmer runs a competition where overweight cats and dogs, with the help of their owners, compete with one another to reach their ideal weight.

“Every pet that reaches a healthy weight is a winner,” said Dr Fyvie.

Sister Boshoff believes that, “Giving your pet a treat does not equal love or attention, it’s just something to eat.”

“It’s better to play ball, take them for a walk, or give them a kiss or a cuddle. They thrive with this kind of positive reinforcement,” she concluded.