Obesity Pandemic Strikes Pets Too

According to the World Health Organisation, in 65 per cent of countries being overweight and obese now kills more people than being underweight. It’s hardly surprising then that our pets have fallen victim to the same condition, with an estimated one in three pets in the Ireland thought to be overweight. And they suffer just as much as humans from ill health related to their weight.

Now pet food company, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, has set an ambitious target that it hopes vets and pet owners will work together to achieve. The aim is to encourage weight loss in pets in Ireland and the UK totaling 60 tonnes within 6 Months. That’s about the weight of twelve adult elephants, so it’s a big challenge in every sense of the word. So, just how can you help your pet lose weight and how important is it?

The Scale of the Problem

Pets that are overweight tend to develop conditions such as heart disease, arthritis and diabetes, mirroring the human conditions associated with obesity. Recently, scientists identified that overweight dogs have their lives cut short by two years on average, compared to normal weight dogs, as a result of health problems related to their weight3. At the other end of the scale it’s also become clear that overweight pets can suffer mood swings, so the ‘fat and happy’ argument doesn’t have any basis either.

Perhaps you feel you are running out of excuses? Well, some dog breeds are prone to weight gain – it really is in their genes – and other factors that increase the risk of obesity developing include neutering and lack of exercise. But the truth is that even ‘at risk’ pets will not gain excess weight if they are fed the right amount of calories to meet their daily needs. However, as every pet owner knows that’s not always easy to stick to, or even to judge.

Take Action

The ‘60 Tonnes in 6 Months’ programme encourages pet owners to take their pets to a veterinary practice to find out what their pet weighs now and what the ideal weight should be. There’s the option of feeding a special weight loss food, which can result in body fat loss of 22%4 within eight weeks in dogs and 20%5 in 12 weeks in cats, offering a relatively quick and easy solution.

Cats take longer to lose weight because they present some particular difficulties when it comes to dieting. Being too strict and withholding too many calories can cause severe illness and liver trouble in cats, so veterinary advice can really make a difference in developing a safe weight management plan: slow and gradual is the best approach.

Having done a fair bit of pet owner hand-holding over the years, vets and vet nurses are also pretty good at offering support and helping pet owners to stick to their pet’s weight loss plan, even in the face of the odd stumble back into bad old habits. Feeding little and often, substituting play and ‘walkies’ for fatty food treats and substituting high calorie milks for water can make a difference and you can guarantee your vet will have a few more hints and tips to help you along the way.

Could your efforts help pets across the nation lose twelve elephants? Visit your veterinary practice today, watch your pets shed the pounds and see them live longer and happier lives.


  1. WHO 2011

  2. Euromonitor 2011 Global Pet Trends

  3. Kealy RD, Lawler DR, Dallam JM, et al. (2002) Effects of diet restriction on life span and age- related changes in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc; 220 (9): 1315-1320

  4. Yamka RM, Frantz NZ, Friesen KG. Effects of 3 canine weight loss foods on body composition and obesity markers, International Journal of Applied Research in Veterinary Medicine, 2007; 5 (3): 125-132.

  5. Hill’s data on file.

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