Greater Shepparton’s pets slimmer than city counterparts

By Spencer Fowler Steen

While pets in Melbourne have been stacking it on during lockdown with cooped-up owners overfeeding them, a Shepparton vet says our pets have been trimming down.

A staggering 40 per cent of dogs and cats seen at a veterinary clinic in North Melbourne during the latest lockdown period have been overweight.

Henry the cat, seen recently at a Melbourne Lost Dogs’ home, is almost double the size of an average male cat, while Twirl, an eight-year-old Staffy kelpie cross, has orthopaedic issues compounded by her weight, which is almost twice what it should be.

But Shepparton Veterinary Clinic's Riana Fitzpatrick hasn't noticed a rise in overweight pets during COVID-19 — in fact, quite the opposite.

“In truth, a lot of pets who were overweight are less overweight with more walking and owners being able to better monitor their food intake from home,” Dr Fitzpatrick said.

In reference to the recent rise in obese pets in Melbourne, Dr Fitzpatrick pointed out that the pets may have been already been overweight before lockdown.

“It’s important that people look at their animal’s body conditions, they see the same pet every day and it becomes part of their routine, so they don’t asses the situation and are often suddenly quite shocked when they hear their pets are overweight,” she said.

“It’s just being aware that just like us, when animals aren’t doing as much exercise, we have to control their food intake to a higher degree.

“Being overweight, especially as they age, can put a lot of strain on their heart and reduce their life expectancy.”

Dr Fitzpatrick said if people were unsure about what was ‘normal’ for their pet, they should talk to their vet.

“Cats are really bad because we tend to give in to them when they want food,” she said.

“But there’s lots of things like diets and exercise you can do.”