Obesity also affects pets. In dogs and cats, for example, the disease increases the risk of diabetes and joint problems. Obese dogs live on average 2.5 years less, in cats the life span is reduced by 1.9 years.
To provide an answer to that, the Healthy Weight Clinic was set up in Merelbeke earlier this year. It is the first pet obesity clinic in Belgium. Scientists are developing programs that allow owners to efficiently lose weight in their pets.
The clinic’s veterinary surgeons perform a physical examination of dogs and cats. They measure an animal’s current weight, size, and body condition score (equivalent to body mass index). Gender and ethnicity are also taken into account. Based on that data, they determine the ideal weight. Animals that deviate from their ideal weight should follow a diet.
If owners want their pets to be healthy, they must also be strict with themselves. Not serving snacks turned out to be a difficult task to maintain. Often the problem starts at dog school, says veterinary surgeon Diana Prosek (UGent). Owners are required to bring a treat to reward their puppy. In fact, they better reward their pet with a pet or a hug.
Changing your lifestyle at the right time can bring great benefits. “Success rates for any diet are much higher in weight gain than in obesity,” says animal nutritionist Miriam Hesta (UGent). “The longer the treatment lasts, the more difficult it is to continue.”
“Obesity is much more than just a beauty problem,” Hesta continues. It is a disease that can cause many disorders. Once the animals lose weight, complaints also decrease.
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