Plump Pooches and Fat Felines – How to Tell if Your Pet is Overweight

Obesity in pets is a serious health risk, with estimates of around 40% of dogs and cats being overweight. Obesity simply means weighing over the ideal body weight for a dog or cats breed and age. Carrying those extra pounds can have serious health consequences and shorten your pet’s life. Following are some tips to help you ensure that your pet is not a candidate for ‘The Biggest Loser’ and to get them back on track if they have started to bulge.

 How to tell if your pet is obese

Many owners put their beloved pets’ health at risk by not addressing weight issues quickly. The easiest way to check your pets weight is to visually assess your pet from side-on and above. Look for a “waist” where their body narrows after the rib cage. Another way is to gently feel around the back end of your pet’s rib cage. At their ideal weight, you should easily feel the outline of a few ribs even though you cannot see them. If you can’t feel their ribs because there is a thick layer of fat, your pet may be dangerously overweight. This chart from WSAVA can help you identify if your dog is over the ideal body weight.

 Pet obesity checklist for owners

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions and suspect your pet may be overweight, we recommend making an appointment to discuss their health and a weight loss program with us.

  • Do you have difficulty feeling your pets ribs?
  • Does your pet waddle when he or she walks?
  • Is your pet reluctant to go on walks, or tires very easily when exercising?
  • Have people remarked that your pet is overweight?
  • Do you feed your pet food scraps?
  • Is your pet unable to groom themselves effectively?
  • Have you noticed that your pet is ‘begging for food’ excessively?
  • Does your pet keep eating so long as there is food in the bowl?
  • Has your pet been desexed?

What causes obesity in pets?

The main cause of obesity is overeating combined with not getting enough regular exercise.

Overfeeding leads to overeating and this habit can sneak up on owners and their furry family members. Owners sometimes overcompensate for not being home with their pets by offering them treats or food scraps. This is a fast way to add unnecessary calories to your pets diet.

Sometimes pets will overeat in response to emotional issues, such as stress or anxiety. Or, if you have multiple pets, sometimes a dominant animal will eat more than their fair share by competitively tucking into the others’ food. Other reasons for overeating can be hormonal, particularly after your animal has been desexed.

What are the health risks of obesity in pets?

It is important for pet owners to understand that obesity is a preventable condition that can easily develop. If you do not treat the issue, you put your pet at risk of the following medical issues:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Liver disease
  • Reproductive disorders
  • Infections
  • Cancer
  • Arthritis

 What to do if you think your pet is obese

If you believe your dog or cat is overweight, then you should make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. Your vet will examine your pet to confirm whether he or she is overweight, and can recommend modifications to diet and exercise routines to get your dog or cat back into a healthy weight range.

 Weight loss changes to your pet’s lifestyle that you can make today:

  • Reduce meal portion sizes
  • Exercise dogs daily (two 30-minute walks every day is the goal)
  • Play with cats daily and/or invest in a scratching post/cat gym
  • Don’t feed your pet table scraps
  • Give treats only occasionally
  • Separate pets when they are fed if one is eating both shares

Obesity is a serious health issue. If your pet is overweight