Q&A: How do I know if my pet is overweight?

Fat black and white cat laying upside down on carpet

Log onto Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other social media platform and you’ll see pictures of overweight dogs and cats with thousands of likes, heart-eyed emojis, and comments saying how adorable their extra rolls are.

But a fat dog or cat is not a healthy animal. Here’s what you need to know about obesity in dogs and cats:

How many dogs and cats are overweight?

According to The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), 56% of dogs are classified as overweight (body condition score [BCS] of 6-7) or obese (BCS 8-9). Even more cats – 60% – were classified as overweight or obese.

To take a different perspective, that’s 50.2 million dogs and 56.5 million cats that are above healthy weight.

What’s wrong with a little extra poundage? Why does it matter that my pet is overweight?

Overweight dogs and cats are prone to shorter life spans, cancer, urinary bladder stones, osteoarthritis and other joint problems, and more.

Additionally, obesity can indicate other issues, such as hypothyroidism in dogs.

My pet has been overweight its whole life. What can I do about it?

Obesity is the most common preventable disease in dogs and cats. Here’s how to know if your pet is obese, and how to help them lose weight if they are.

How can I spot a weight problem in my pet?

Fat brown dog lays in grass smiling

While the best way to determine if your pet is a healthy weight is to have them examined by a veterinarian, who will score your pet’s body condition from 1 (emaciated) to 10 (obese), there are ways you can check your pet yourself!

According to Hill’s Pet Nutrition, no matter what breed your dog is, these are all signs of a healthy weight:

  • You can feel all your dog’s ribs without a thick layer of fat over them.
  • Your dog’s chest is wider than his abdomen; a dog that is the same size all the way down is overweight.
  • Regular breathing (no excessive panting) and activity level (no laziness).

Cat owners can use these techniques:

  • Feel the ribs – the padding over your kitty’s ribs shouldn’t feel any thicker than the padding over the back of your hand.
  • Look down at your cat while they’re standing. If they’re a healthy weight, you’ll notice a “waist” on them – a slight indentation over the hips. If their sides bulge out, they may be overweight. However, because many cats are fluffy, this method may be harder to use accurately.
  • Monitor their playfulness and grooming habits. Overweight cats sometimes stop playing or grooming themselves.

How should I exercise my pet?

There are many ways to exercise your pet, and some don’t even require leashing up and heading on a walk!

To exercise your dog, try:

  • Taking a walk.
  • Taking a run.
  • Play fetch for 15 minutes, twice a day.
  • Play chase.
  • Have your dog chase a laser pointer.
  • Go for a swim.

Cat owners can:

  • Play chase with a laser pointer.
  • Use a feather, string, or other dangling toy to make your cat jump and run.
  • Play chase using a pompom or other cat-sized ball.
  • Blow bubbles for your cat to chase.
  • Get a cat tree to encourage jumping and climbing.

Not all dogs or cats can tolerate the same exercises. A Labrador may thrive with a daily jog, but a Pug is another story. A kitten may do well with jumping, while a senior cat needs something less strenuous. Consult a Crossroads Pet Hospital veterinarian to ask which exercises are ideal for your pet.

What – and how – should I feed my pet?

Fact: Your vet may recommend a special food for your pet – what worked for the puppy or kitten stage might not work so well now that your fur baby is an adult or a senior. A simple food change can work wonders in an overweight dog or cat.

Additionally, some foods are better quality than others. Your vet can recommend some brands that have only the nutrients your pet needs – nothing else.

Measure how much your pet eats and make sure it’s within our vet’s recommendations. If you typically just “keep the bowl full” and your pet is getting a bit tubby, try feeding at specific times of the day. Avoid giving too many extra treats, too, but never limit access to fresh water.

If you think your pet is overweight, bring it up at your pet’s next checkup. We’ll tell you the best plan to get Fluffy and Fido back down to a healthy weight. You’ll notice a healthier, happier pet. Contact us online or call us at 972-416-4060 to make an appointment today!