Updated: Dec 1, 2021
For many people, a fat pet is a funny pet – just look at the rise of #chonkydogs videos on TikTok, which, according to our research, have been viewed more the 90 million times, and the million plus members of groups celebrating fat pets on facebook, Instagram and Reddit. But the reality for the pets involved is very far from funny – just as for people, being overweight or obese comes with a whole range of health issues which can be life changing and even life threatening.
The main health issues associated with excess weight in pets are similar to those found in overweight people: arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and liver disease. Arthritis, caused by the strain that excess weight places on joints, can be crippling for pets, and have a massively negative impact on their quality of life. Even more seriously, cancer, diabetes, heart and liver diseases are all potentially life-threatening and there is often a direct link between a pet’s weight and their life expectancy caused by the impact of these conditions.
So, it’s clear that we should be taking obesity a lot more seriously than we seem to be doing if we really want to prioritise the long-term health and wellbeing of our pets – and however innocuous it may seem to watch a few #chonkydogs videos, or share amusing pictures of grossly obese cats, it all helps to normalise and trivialise what is a very serious health situation.
In practical terms, there is a lot we can do aside from turning away from fat pet videos. The most important thing to do is to make sure our own pets are a healthy weight, and this can be harder than it sounds. Even just recognising that your pet is overweight can be difficult as many owners see their beloved cat or dog through rose tinted spectacles and can be in a state of denial about their real weight. The best way to be properly objective about your pet’s weight is to use condition scoring rather than a set of scales.
Condition scoring is where you assess your pet’s body condition against a scale, usually from 1 to 5, with 1 being extreme emaciation and 5 gross obesity. To work out your pet’s condition, firstly take a look at them from the side and the top. For an ideal condition score of 3 out of 5, you should be able to clearly see the outline of their ribcage and pelvis, and from above, a distinct waist between the ribs and hind legs. Then, run your hands over their ribs. If you can’t easily feel their ribs, their condition score is likely to be a 4 or 5, but if they are very prominent with little covering, they could be an underweight 1 or 2.
If your pet has a body condition score of 4 or 5, indicating that they are overweight or obese, it’s time to take action – and this action should come in two parts: more exercise and less calories in their diet. Increasing activity should be undertaken gradually, and with care so as not to exacerbate any joint or mobility issues, but it should be possible to help your pet burn off some of their excess weight over a few months of increased activity. Alongside this, it’s important to look at their total daily calorie intake and make sure this is at the right level to support their ideal body weight.
One of the great advantages of feeding a fresh homemade diet with the VetChef platform is that it allows you to very accurately control the number of calories your dog is consuming each day. Smart homemade meals can also help them stay feeling full by incorporating ingredients that are high in fibre and low in calories such as vegetables and wholegrains.
Finally, incorporating the VetChef weight loss supplement K905 into your dog’s diet will also help as it contains L-carnitine, an ingredient that helps convert fat into muscle.
Helping your pet in this way is well worth the effort – for both of your sakes. If you can keep your pet in shape, you’ll generate so much more happiness and humour in your active life together than any number of #chonkydog videos could ever provide.