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Opinion By Dr Hugh Stanley
Is weight gain healthy?

One of the things that still amazes me after 24 years in the veterinary profession is the attitude clients have towards the body condition of their animals. Most people become concerned and will seek help if they notice that their pet is losing weight. Losing weight is seen as a problem or a sign of possible disease while gaining weight is same as “funny or cute”, or even a sign of good health.

Are pets so different to us?

We live in a society that is obsessed with the human health and social benefits of not being overweight. There are pseudo- pharmacies staffed by well- manicured ladies in pastel uniforms that sell unproven products claiming to be the best solution to finding that perfect physique that is within all of us. But this concern with body shape is seldom transferred to pets. This is unfortunate because obesity causes the same health disadvantages and health risks to your pet that it does to you.

Obesity is a health risk for your pets

The list of obesity-related conditions is long and scary, including heart, liver, and respiratory diseases, arthritis, spinal problems, heat stroke, pancreatitis, hormonal diseases such as diabetes, skin disease, and even cancer. Obesity is a disease in its own right and seriously affects the quality of your pet’s life even before the secondary conditions occur. It has been identified as being the most common disease of companion animals and affects up to 30% of all cats and dogs.

Is my pet obese?

So what can we do about obesity? The first step is to recognise it. This can be difficult because of the huge variation in size and shapes of dogs and cats and the variation in opinion about what constitutes ‘normal’ body condition. A body condition score system from 1-5 has been devised with 1 being extremely thin and 5 being extremely fat. The optimum lies between 2.5 and 3.5. You can also try to feel the ribs on the side of the chest. If the ribs are hard to find you may assume your pet is overweight. You should be able to feel them with gentle pressure. For short haired breed you should also be able to see a definite waist’ when the animal is viewed from above. If you are in any doubt make an appointment at HHVC or ask us about it at your next consultation.

Weight Loss Plan.

Without a structured weight loss program and a proper weight loss diet most attempts at thinning down your pet fail, and may be detrimental. If you try to reduce the animals calorie intake by cutting back to one meal a day or by restricting the amount of a ‘standard’ pet food you may cause deficiencies in essential vitamins, minerals and protein and have an unhappy permanently hungry pet to deal with. In some cases the obesity is actually secondary to another underlying condition such as hormone disease or joint pain. Each pet is unique; one program does not suit them all, and the requirements of dogs and cats are very different. Taking these factors into account it is always safer and more effective to make an appointment with us first.

We can help

We will check the health of your pet and devise a plan for your pet that incorporates your pets lifestyle, life stage, the best food for them, a suitable rate of weight loss, the ideal target weight, and appropriate monitoring strategy them. It is very rewarding to see how much happier, healthier and more active your pet can be when you successfully get them into the body condition they should be in. Remember your pet’s body condition is your decision and your responsibility.

Pet Slimmer of the Year

Each year we run a weight loss plan under the supervision of one of our trained nurses. Hills Pet Foods organizes a competition for Hong Kong pets to lose weight. Your pet will be assessed and a weight loss target set. A diet will be recommended and the right initial amount to feed decided. Regular weight checks will allow us to monitor your pet’s progress and adjust the feed amounts. You will also receive regular discount vouchers for the diets. We will take “before and after photos” for entry into the Pet Slimmer of the Year Competition. The winner will receive very good prizes. We were very happy that in 2008 one of our cats was crowned cat pet slimmer for Hong Kong 2008!


Hung Hom Veterinary Clinic, Caring for What matters.

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