With more than half the U.S. pet population overweight or obese, you need to monitor your pet’s weight, and learn how to help them reach and maintain a healthy body condition. Overweight pets are at an increased risk for weight-related health problems that can significantly decrease their quality of life. Read our WesVet Animal Hospital team’s tips on preventing pet obesity. 

#1: Learn about pet obesity

You may be unaware that your pet is among the 56% of dogs or 60% of cats who are overweight or obese in the United States. Overweight pets have become the norm, and because of this, you likely have more difficulty accurately assessing your pet’s weight. Veterinary professionals consider your pet obese if they weigh 20% more than their ideal body weight, and pets weighing 10% more than their ideal weight are considered overweight, and all are at risk for developing a host of health issues, including:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • Skin infections
  • Endocrine disorders
  • Respiratory difficulties
  • High blood pressure
  • Heatstroke
  • Cardiac problems
  • Decreased life span
  • Some cancers

An overweight or obese pet has the potential to develop many weight-related medical conditions.Always keep in mind that obesity can diminish your pet’s quality of life, and decrease their life expectancy.

#2: Assess your pet’s obesity risk

Any pet can gain too much weight, but some are genetically predisposed to weight gain, especially small- and toy-breed dogs, brachycephalic (i.e., flat-faced) breeds, and non-purebred cats. Dog breeds more likely to suffer weight-related conditions include:

  • Labrador retrievers
  • Pugs
  • Beagles
  • Golden retrievers
  • Bulldogs
  • Basset hounds
  • Dachshunds

If your pet is predisposed to weight gain, you must carefully monitor their diet, and ensure they get enough exercise. 

#3: Determine your pet’s body condition score

Your veterinary professional is best at accurately determining whether your pet is overweight. However, you can assess your pet’s weight at home by using a body condition score (BCS) that relies on observing your pet from above and the side, and palpating several of their body areas. A BCS of one indicates your pet is excessively emaciated, and a BCS of nine indicates they are excessively obese. An ideal BCS is between four and five. Your pet should have a visible waistline—not a rectangular body shape—with palpable ribs under a light fat covering, and an abdominal tuck rather than a sagging belly. Evaluating your pet’s body condition can be challenging if they have a thick coat, so place your hands on them and press lightly to feel their ribs, waist, and abdomen. Always feel free to ask our WesVet Animal Hospital team for help in determining your pet’s BCS.

#4: Schedule regular wellness exams for your pet

During your pet’s annual wellness exam, your veterinarian will evaluate your cat’s or dog’s weight, and look for signs of conditions such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease, which can contribute to weight gain. Your veterinarian can also recommend a customized diet and exercise plan to guide you as you help your pet reach and maintain a healthy weight. 

#5: Measure your pet’s food portions

To maintain your pet’s healthy weight, determine the food amount they need, and use a measuring cup to ensure you are not overfeeding or underfeeding them. To determine your pet’s appropriate food amount, do the following:

  • Calculate your pet’s daily energy needsCalorie calculators can help you determine your pet’s individual energy requirements. These calculators consider your pet’s spay or neuter status, activity level, and BCS, and recommend your cat’s or dog’s necessary calorie count per day.
  • Read your pet’s food label — Check your pet’s food label to determine the calories in a certain food portion. 
  • Consult your veterinarian — Your veterinarian can recommend healthy and nutritional pet foods, and determine the appropriate portion to meet your pet’s daily nutritional needs. 

#6: Engage in daily exercise with your pet

Physical activity is essential for maintaining your pet’s healthy weight, in addition to enhancing their mood and behavior. Without adequate exercise, pets can become bored, which can lead to destructive or stress-related behavior. Vary your pet’s activities by including walks, hikes, and games of fetch. Your pet’s exercise needs are based on age, breed, size, and health status. However, most pets need at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity. 

Helping maintain your pet’s healthy weight is one of the best ways to increase their quality of life, and ensure you enjoy many years together. Contact our WesVet Animal Hospital team if you have questions about your pet’s weight, or to schedule a wellness exam.