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Pets tend to put on more weight during the colder months and it can become a challenge to shed any excess kilos later on. The extra weight can be caused by less exercise during periods of bad weather or just by receiving a few extra biscuits every now and then. Unfortunately for our pets, a small scrap of human food as a treat is the equivalent of a beef burger and over time - these extras add up! Obesity in animals can lead to health problems, similar to those seen in humans. Overweight animals may be more predisposed to developing conditions such as diabetes, heart, respiratory and joint problems or their weight may cause underlying problems to become worse e.g. arthritis.

Once a pet becomes a little porky, it can be quite tricky to shift the extra weight, especially cats, who can be quite reluctant to go on a walk! Cutting back on treats may not be enough to get your pet slim and trim and simply reducing the amount of their regular diet may mean they are begging for food due to hunger cravings.

There are specially formulated foods that are designed to contain fewer calories so larger volumes can be fed, which still makes the pet feel full but the overall calories consumed are lower. These foods can be fed until a target weight has been reached, then your pet can go back to a regular diet.

It is also important to weigh out the calculated amount of food accurately and feed for the target weight desired, rather than for their current weight. Any diet change should be gradually introduced by mixing the new food in with the current food. Regular monthly weigh-ins are useful to help keep your pet on target to achieve their ideal weight.

Increasing exercise is a great way of encouraging weight loss but can be difficult with cats. Overweight cats can be persuaded to do more exercise by regular play with favourite toys - about half an hour an evening should help to reduce the waistline.

As cats are hunting creatures, hiding food in different locations around the house, rather than in one bowl in the usual spot, can also encourage extra physical activity and be a more stimulating way for a feline to dine. Dogs can also have food hidden in treat balls that allow a biscuit of food to roll out when the ball is played with, making the dog work more for his or her food.

Ultimately, slim pets have more energy and fewer problems with conditions such as lameness or joint problems. They really don’t need those few extra biscuits.

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