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Diet and nutrition

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The best way to prevent your pet from becoming overweight is to feed the correct diet in the right proportions from the day you take your pet into your home. As appealing as they are when young  remember that they grow up, sometimes into quite large animals. There is nothing worse than going to visit friends and their pet is sitting at your feet begging.

Obesity in animals is sometimes not noticed until you visit the vet, normally at booster time. Most veterinary surgeries have scales for weighing pets on. At the yearly booster the vet will sometimes take your pet's weight and record it, even writing it on the vaccination certificate. This is a good way of picking up any irregularities in your pet's weight, increase or decrease, since the last visit.

If your pet is overweight your vet will be able to advise you of what to feed, how much and how often, you will also be given an ideal weight for your pet. The vet may then put you in the capable hands of a nurse, who may even run obesity clinics. You will be given an appointment to take your pet along for regular weight checks, and advice.

There are specially formulated slimming diets available. They contain all the minerals and vitamins your pet needs and they provide bulk without the calories, so they feel full. Always get advice from your veterinary surgeon before starting your pet on a diet. The vet may want to check your pet to make sure there is no underlying problem that is affecting your pet's weight.

Being overweight causes many problems in pets. These can range from flatulence to reduction in life expectancy. Some of the other problems are heart and circulatory disorders, arthritis, diabetes, increase in surgical and anaesthetic risks, heat intolerance and skin disease.

The cause of obesity is that the animal is eating more than it requires, the excess is stored as fat, and the animal becomes overweight. Overfeeding of an improper diet containing too much fat and too many carbohydrates, too many snacks or scraps and not enough exercise are all factors in the cause of obesity. Many older pets need their diet adjusted, as they get older they sleep more and require less exercise, your vet will be able to advise you on feeding the older pet.

You may not notice that your pet is putting on weight on a day to day basis, but over a period of time this can add up. If you have a photograph of your pet when it was younger, have a look at it, you may be surprised. You may also like to see if you can feel your pet's ribs. They should be easy to feel, if not see, by applying slight pressure on either side of the rib cage with your fingertips. If you cannot feel them easily then you may need to think about your pets' diet. Stand over your pet when it is standing up, if you cannot see a waistline then your pet is needing to have its food intake reduced.

Sometimes cutting out all the treats may be enough, depending on how overweight your pet is. The other areas where excess fat may accumulate are around the shoulders, along the spine and at the base of the tail. You can also look at the animals silhouette, the abdomen should not hang down excessively but should be flat or concave, following the line of the animal.

Some animals are more susceptible to gaining weight than others, this includes pets that have been neutered, older pets and pets belonging to older people.

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