Have a hungry pet you just can’t say no to? Those puppy-dog eyes or soft meows causing you to treat your pet, maybe a little too much? We take a look at overindulgence and the harm it could be causing your four-legged friend.

Over Indulging our Pets

Photo credit: Kari Shea, Unsplash

It’s not uncommon for many pet owners to over-treat their beloved companion animals. From offering the extra titbits, or some tasty leftovers from dinner, overindulgence in pets is becoming a problem for various reasons.

Interestingly some pet insurance providers have noticed a staggering 112% increase in gastrointestinal concerns over the Covid period. Some experts suggest this could be a direct cause of unsuspecting pet parents offering their animals too much human food that can lead to sickness and stomach upsets. While treating our pets is very ingrained in the human/companion animal bond, pet owners need to understand what their pet’s dietary requirements are while also cutting back on the foods that pets should not eat.

Another big concern is obesity. As many humans discovered during lockdown periods – as the doors were shut closed on entertainment, eating out, and socializing, many of our waistlines seemingly expanded! This is also true of our pets. With obesity being one of the biggest issues facing our pets, many vets are issuing warnings of the long-term effects weight gain can have.

An overweight pet is not a healthy pet. Obesity can cause your pet to be more predisposed to a range of issues including:

  • Diabetes
  • Osteoarthritis
  • ACL problems
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cancer
  • Disease affecting organs
  • Shorter lifespan
  • Limited quality of life
  • Joint problems  
  • Extra stress on organs 

Obesity also directly compromises the quality of life of your pet by limiting their physical activity and overall well being.  Fit active pets, who are not battling obesity live life to the maximum, plus, they also encourage their two-legged pet parents to get out and about too.

Photo credit: Ludemeula Fernandes, Upsplash

Sadly, for our feline friends, obesity seems to produce funny memes over social media – images of overweight cats basking in the sun or wobbling when running up-stairs is a huge source of amusement. Overweight cats can suffer from many medical conditions due to their large size, and also have a much shorter lifespan than their slimmer brothers and sisters. So, if you think your cat is battling the bulge, it’s best to take Fluffy to the local vet and tackle their weight problem, they’ll certainly thank you when they are older. 

Check out this video where Veterinarian Pete Wedderburn, DVM , of All About Cats explains the causes of obesity in cats, how to know if your cat’s overweight, and how to help your cat reach a healthy weight.

Diet and Exercise

Similar to humans it’s all about the diet and the amount of exercise you offer your pets. For all companion animals on a complete diet (biscuits and wet foods), it’s important to follow the manufactures feeding instructions and avoid feeding your pet from your plate. Many human-designed foods can cause huge amounts of problems with our pets, particularly those containing a high-fat content such as butter, greasy foods, and meat drippings. Overindulgence in this type of food, particularly for dogs, can quickly lead to pancreatitis.

It’s recommended to only feed your pet treats that are specially designed for cats and dogs, or even research to create your own pet-safe treats. Ensure you take this amount out of your pet’s daily food intake, so you are not overfeeding your canine companion or feline friend. 

Photo credit: Manja Vitolic, Upsplash

Exercise is also important but it’s vital to go slow to prevent injury. If your dog has not enjoyed a good walk for a while, running 10km around the block is not suggested. Start slowly and gradually increase the distance and speed. For cats, consider purchasing some interactive toys and encourage them to play.

With both cats and dogs, exercise should always be done in the cooler part of the day and before a meal, not after. 

Top Tips

  • Make your dog work for their food, consider utilizing treat balls and puzzle games or throwing a portion of their daily food intake over the lawn so they need to sniff this out.
  • If you have a fast eater consider using a specially designed bowl to slow them down or pop a large ball (tennis balls work great for dogs) into their food bowl when they eat.
  • If your dog hates the daily walk, mix it up. Consider a new route or take the walk in the opposite direction.
  • Play and training is a great way to get your pet moving and keep them enthusiastic about getting fit. Teach your pet a new trick, there are plenty to choose from and it’s only a click away.
  • If you are concerned about your pet’s weight, seek veterinary advice. They will be able to assist in getting your pet to their correct weight zone for their breed, size, and age.