Obesity in Pets

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Just when we thought we’ve seen it all

Dachshunds usually weigh between 7 to 14kg.  Staff at the Cape of Good Hope SPCA hospital were left speechless when the new owner, who inherited Hansie, brought him in for a consultation weighing nearly double at 22kg.

Hansie’s pervious owner had recently passed at the age of 94 and we suspect dementia or Alzheimer’s may have led to him being repeatedly fed, causing his advanced state of obesity.

Body Score Charts

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “A person with Alzheimer’s may do or say something over and over — like repeating a word, question or activity — or undo something that has just been finished. In most cases, he or she is probably looking for comfort, security and familiarity”.

On presentation, Hansie’s mobility was severely impaired and he was unable to walk freely.  Since his first visit, Hansie was placed on a strict diet and we are pleased to report already lost a few kilograms.

He will remain monitored with veterinary oversight on his weight loss journey.  Dr Spamer outlines the do’s and don’ts of managing overweight pets below.

Obesity is a well-known and recognised condition in humans; however, people underestimate the condition in their pets. Around 20-45% of dogs are estimated to be clinically obese, and the number seems to be on the increase. While many owners feel they are just showing their love, at a certain point, when considering the impact this degree of increased weight has on the welfare of the animal, it may arguably be a form of animal abuse. This is supported by the fact that studies have proven that obesity negatively influences the health of the animal, the overall quality of life and life expectancy.

Obesity in dogs and cats have been associated with a host of health complications, including orthopaedic problems (earlier onset arthritis, cruciate ligaments ruptures, etc), diabetes, heart and respiratory problems (especially breeds or individuals already predisposed to these), reproductive complications, skin disorders and may contribute to anaesthetic complications.

Animals with concurrent health disorders, such as hip dysplasia, arthritis, collapsed tracheas, brachycephalic airway syndrome to name only a few must especially be closely monitored, as the negative impact on them may be substantially worse than an overall otherwise healthy animal.

Doctors Orders!

Management of obesity (or overweight animals) is achieved through a combination of dietary management, exercise, and behavioural modification. It is also important to note that as this is a multifactorial condition, it requires a multifactorial correction, and unless all aspects of the cause are addressed, ultimately owners are setting pets up to fail.

When talking about dietary management, important factors to consider are the type of diet (many brands of petfood have specific weight control foods), as well as the amount fed (feed for the target weight, not the current weight) and the frequency fed (small regular portions are better than large individual portions). It is also important to note that especially during this time, treats should be minimal if at all, and carefully selected, or you are simply wasting money on the process. Still bear in mind, though, that simply cutting your pet’s regular food in half may do more harm than good, as it also contains a mix of essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, which are essential for normal body health and function.

Dr Stephan Spamer (BVSc)

Increasing physical activity is another important part of the process to promote fat loss, whilst simultaneously helping to preserve lean muscle mass (which requires energy for maintenance, and aids in the weight loss process). This should be done while remaining aware of any medical conditions that may be affecting the animal and consulting your vet may be indicated.

Types of exercise that may be incorporated include:
    • Lead walks/runs
    • Swimming
    • Hydrotherapy

Remember, just like humans, weight loss should be a gradual process, to it may well not be sustainable, or may do more harm than good. It is therefore important to follow manufacturer instructions when feeding weight management feed and not overdoing exercise (especially at the beginning), but rather focusing on setting a sustainable new routine. Targets for weight loss should be such as to reach a 15-20% overall weight loss over 12-18 weeks.

For more information on weight loss programmes, you can also visit Hill’s Pet Slimmer online.


De Scally, M., 2017. Nutritional Assessment in Small Animals. [Online]
Available at: https://vet360.vetlink.co.za/nutritional-assessment-small-animals/

Gossellin, J., Wren, J.A. and Sunderland, S.J., 2007. Canine obesity–an overview. Journal of veterinary pharmacology and therapeutics, 30, pp.1-10.

Hill’s, n.d. Hill’s Pet Slimmer. [Online] Available at: https://petslimmer.co.za/

Merriam-Webster, n.d. Obesity. [Online]
Available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obesity

Ramsey, I. & German, A., 2008. Update on the managementof canine obesity. UK Vet, 13(8).

Dachshunds usually weigh between 7 to 14kg. Hansie was brought in weighing nearly double at 22kg.

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