Managing Pet Obesity and Maintaining A Healthy Weight

By Madison Guthrie

For many of us, our dogs and cats are like our children. We pamper them, dote on them, buy them the best of the best, and make sure they are happy and healthy at all costs.

Unfortunately, along with pampering and spoiling our beloved fur babies comes the accidental over-treating and feeding many pet parents do, and this often leads to our fur kids gaining a few extra pounds.

Worse, our society often regards obese pets as being “cute”, which further compounds the growing issue of pet obesity in the United States.

There are several health risks that come with being an overweight pet, and seeing as October is Pet Obesity Awareness month, we thought we ought to highlight this growing issue.

Let’s talk about pet obesity, and how you can continue to pamper your pet without plumping them up.

What Is Pet Obesity?

To understand if your pet is obese, you must first understand that pet obesity exists.

While it may be hard to believe, some pet parents are surprised when they come to learn that their seemingly healthy dog or cat is overweight.

In fact, recent studies done by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that 22% of dog owners and 15% of cat owners were surprised to learn that their pets were overweight.

Worse still, many pet parents have now come to accept and even expect their pets to be a little chunky, with many considering plump pets to be the new normal.

Pet obesity, however, is not normal or healthy. But how exactly do we define pet obesity?

A dog or cat is considered obese when they are carrying extreme and excess body weight that exceeds their ideal body weight by 15% to 20%.

An obese pet may be obviously obese, with dogs and cats waddling around with large abdomens, showing signs of breathing difficulties, and generally exhibiting low energy.

But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to tell if your pet is overweight. Let’s learn more.

How To Tell If Your Dog Or Cat Is Overweight

Determining if your dog or cat is obese may be a bit more difficult than you think. After all, there is a reason that over 45% of dogs in the United States are considered obese by veterinary standards.

Sometimes it’s just hard to tell!

Aside from giving your dog or cat a good once over with your eyes, there are a few ways you can further determine if your furry friend needs to drop a few pounds.

For dogs, regardless of breed, you should be able to feel your dog’s ribs easily. A healthy dog will have their stomach tucked in and there should be a distinction between your dog’s chest and belly area.

If you can’t feel muscle definition or your dog’s rib cage, then chances are your pooch is a little heavier than it should be.

You can tell if your cat is overweight by using similar methods. Feel around your cat’s ribcage. You should be able to easily feel your cat’s ribs without pressing too firmly.

You can also stand above your cat and look down at them while they are standing.
With cats, there should be some semblance of a waist. However, if their middle is tubby and they don’t have a slim looking waist when they stand, you might have an overweight cat on your hands.

Health Risks Associated With Pet Obesity

While some pet owners do perceive their obese pets as being cute, pampered, or spoiled, the truth is that obese pets are actually at risk for several serious health issues.

Both dogs and cats that are overweight can be susceptible to a number of issues, including:

  • Depression
  • Skin and coat issues
  • Urinary tract infections
  • High blood pressure
  • Certain types of cancers
  • Heart Disease
  • Respiratory Disease
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney Disease

Not only is your pet’s health at risk but obesity can have serious effects on your pet’s mental health as well as their quality of life. Obesity may also reduce your dog or cat’s lifespan by at least two years.

So, what do you do if you think you have an overweight pet? Keep reading!

My Dog Or Cat Is Obese – Now What?

If you think your dog or cat is overweight, the first thing we suggest you do is to schedule an appointment with your vet to ensure no underlying health issues are causing your pet’s excessive weight gain.

Your veterinarian will then be able to assist you in coming up with a diet and exercise plan that best suits your pet’s needs based on his age, weight, and activity level.

Remember, reducing your dog or cat’s calorie intake is not always the best plan of action and can lead to malnutrition over time.

Sometimes the solution is a change in diet altogether while including more exercise into your pet’s routine, as well as introducing healthy supplements and vitamins into your pet’s daily diet

How To Maintain A Healthy Weight In Your Dog Or Cat

While there are dog and cat breeds that are more susceptible to suffering from obesity than others, it’s important to remember that all pets can suffer from obesity and that obesity in our pets isn’t always easy to spot.

Speak with your veterinarian about the best food brands for your specific pet and your pet’s needs.

For some pets, giving them access to food whenever they want it, also known as free-feeding, is unhealthy and allows pets to overeat.

If you have an obese pet, limit their access to food and feed them the proper amount of food that your vet recommends during breakfast and dinnertime.

You should also limit the number of treats you offer your pet or opt for healthier treats, and increase exercise opportunities.

For dogs, implementing longer walks and active playtime can help reduce obesity and encourage a healthy lifestyle.

If you have an indoor obese cat, implementing more cat shelves or places for your cat to climb, hide, and play, will help reduce the chances of obesity.

For more on how you can help reduce your pet’s chance of becoming obese and how to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle for your dog or cat, visit us at

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