Is Your Pet Packing on the Pounds?
In 2018, it was estimated by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention that 60% of cats and 58% of dogs are overweight or obese in the United States. We likely see similar numbers here in Canada as well. Unfortunately, excess body fat can lead to a variety of health issues for pets. Pets that are overweight have a higher risk of heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, and cancer. Studies have even shown that overweight pets are seen as less happy (lower quality of life) and don’t live as long as pets kept at a healthy weight.
How Can I Tell If My Pet Is Overweight?
In the clinic, we commonly use a Body Condition Score chart. Here is an example of one from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association.
We use this chart to get an idea on if your pet is underweight, at a healthy weight, or overweight. It would be similar to the Body Mass Index system used in your physician’s office. Feel free to use this chart to try to assess your own dog or cat’s body condition at home! You can use the images to see where your pet’s shape falls compared to the goal of a body condition score of 5 out of 9.
Step 1: The Ribs. You should be able to feel your pet’s ribs with minimal pressure easily, but you don’t want to see them sticking out. Below is a great graphic to show how to determine if your pet’s ribs are easy to feel or hard to feel.
(Click the photo to make it larger)
Step 2: The Waist. You want to be able to see an ‘hourglass figure’ when you look at your pet’s waist from above. You should be able to see where their ribcage ends and where their hips begin.
Step 3: The Tuck. When looking at your pet from the side, you should see their belly slope up from where their ribcage ends to where their pelvis begins. It is called an abdominal tuck.
How can I get my pet into tip-top shape?
Come and talk to the veterinarians and staff in the clinic, and we can help develop a weight loss plan tailored to your pet. First, we will check to see how many calories your pet should be eating based on their weight, age, and body condition score. Then we may recommend some changes to help your pet shed any extra pounds.
Diet – If your pet is overweight or obese, a weight loss diet may be the best option to help them to shed those extra pounds. Weight-loss diets are specifically made to have lower calories but still provide your pet with all of the nutrients they need. These diets are sold just in veterinary clinics, to ensure that your pets weight loss is safe and monitored by a veterinarian.
Exercise – Both dogs and cats can benefit from more exercise! Start slowly trying to take your dog for longer walks or use toys to play with your cat. You can also use a treat ball, puzzle feeders, or an empty egg carton to feed their meals in so that they have to work harder to get their food.
Limit Treats – While treats are great ways to reward your pet and show affection, they can be an added source of calories! Try to buy low-calorie treats from the pet store, use your pet’s kibble as a treat, or use vegetables like baby carrots as a healthy snack. Remember – everything in moderation!
If you have any questions about your pet’s weight, give us a call at (519) 893 – 1360. We’re happy to help you make sure your pet has a longer, healthier, and happier life with you!
Written by: Amanda S, Veterinary Student