Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Supreme Pet Foods
Following on from last week where we looked at the problems of sugar and obesity in small animals today I want to look at strategies for dealing with obesity. To give a quick recap obesity is when an animal is more than 20% over their ideal body weight which is determined by using body condition scoring which takes into account the animals state of being (more on this later!).
Anyways the first step is determining that your pet is overweight, generally with rabbits, guinea pigs and ferrets you should be able to feel the spine and ribs however these should not be visibly prominent. If you cannot feel these then your pet is probably overweight, depending on the amount it may be a good idea here to seek help from your vet. Lots of practices now run free “weight clinics” where you have a qualified nurse to talk you through nutrition and how best to manage your pets weight. Even if its not advertised for small animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, or ferrets if you talk to your practice most will actually accommodate your pet!
Now the golden rule to weight loss is that it should be slow and steady, if you decrease the amount of food too rapidly or skip a feeding then its possible for the animal to develop a life threatening condition known as hepatic lipidosis. This occurs when the body is forced to convert extreme amounts of body fat into energy causing a build up of fat cells in the liver preventing it from doing its normal functions (aka liver failure). If you suspect this you need to seek immediate emergency veterinary attention for your pet!
There are two factors in play here when it comes to nutrition; quantity and quality. As stated in the previous article you should be looking for foods which avoid high levels of sugar. Also consider what you are feeding, if it is a mix does your pet eat all of the food or are they just eating parts of it (known as selective feeding). It may be worth using different foods in combination to try and give a balanced diet. You should consider fruit to be a treat that is given once a week in tiny amounts as it contains loads of sugar. In addition you can also supplement this with daily fresh vegetables or herbs for example:
Rabbits: Look to feed leafy green veg and things like coriander or fresh mint
Guinea Pigs: As these are susceptible to bloat be cautious so dry hay or herbs and fibrous plants like dandelion leaves
As for quantity the first thing to do is look at how much you are feeding (weigh this!) and how much the instructions on the feed packaging says you should be feeding which can be an interesting comparison. If you are feeding more than you should start to reduce the amount gradually over 2 – 3 weeks.
Also consider how you give the food to your pet, things like using a feeding ball or scatter feeding can help increase activity and so burn more calories! I’ve got animal nutrition this coming semester so should be covering a lot more nutrition topics in more detail.