Almost half of the pets in South Africa are classified as being overweight or obese due to the high percentage of the human population being overweight. Picture: Brenton Geach/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Cape Town - Almost half of the pets in South Africa are classified as being overweight or obese due to the high percentage of the human population being overweight through their lifestyle choices.

The World Health Organisation statistics show that 39% of all adults are overweight, with 13% classified as “obese”.

Dr Guy Fyvie, nutritional adviser for Hill’s Pet Nutrition South Africa, said carrying an extra kilogram or two can have long-term health implications for pets too.

“Your lifestyle choices have an impact on your health - but also impact the health of your pet. Obesity is the number one cause of health problems in pets in South Africa - and around the world - today,” he said.

Fyvie said pets who are overweight lived shorter lives and were at a higher risk of developing arthritis, urinary conditions, skin problems, heart disease and even cancer .

They also may have difficulty walking, move more slowly, develop shortness of breath, exhibit bad tempers and sleep more than usual.

“If you run your fingers along their side and you can’t easily feel their ribs, or if they have no obvious waist, they are probably carrying too much weight,” said Fyvie, adding that overweight pets have also been shown to be less happy.

He said the US Association for Pet Obesity Prevention cites a “fat gap” as a key factor in the obesity epidemic: most pet owners can’t - or won’t - believe a veterinarian when they’re told their pet is overweight, because they’re not able to identify the signs.

“The weight gain often takes place gradually and is easy to overlook in the absence of regular check-ups,” he said.

October is Pet Obesity Month and pet owners can book a free weight assessment at a participating Pet Slimmer veterinary practice for an evaluation of their pet’s condition.

“A professional assessment is also important in determining the underlying causes of the excess weight. Some breeds are more likely to gain weight (and) the animal’s age can (also) play a role. Medical disorders can cause weight gain and feeding habits can also be a factor,” said Fyvie.

Cape Argus