Fat Cat“Pleasantly plump” may describe your adorable fur friend, but how do you know if a few extra pounds is actually detrimental to his or her health?

On a pet, extra pounds are sometimes hard to discern. After all, we’re conditioned to see chubby pets as cute, but 2-3 pounds for cats or small dogs can be a large percentage of total body mass.

Unfortunately, overweight and obese pets are far too common, and they’re at risk for many secondary diseases and shortened lives.

Tips for Determining if Your Pet is Overweight

Considering that 53% of dogs and 58% of cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese, there’s a good chance weight-related problems will affect your pet. Here are a few easy ways to determine whether your pet is at risk for obesity:

  1. Profile assessment – Ideally, the abdomen should slope upward toward the rib cage or tuck into the rib cage and hind legs.
  2. Rib cage palpation – When you spread both hands across your pet’s rib cage, you should be able to easily feel the contour of the ribs.
  3. Overhead assessment – When standing over your pet, there should be a natural hourglass shape or visible waistline.
  4. Refer to pet body condition scoring – For more information on visually assessing your pet’s weight, there are several body condition scoring cards online for your reference.
  5. Schedule a wellness examination – By far, the best way to determine if your pet is overweight or obese is to have him or her assessed by your veterinarian. Through wellness and preventive care, you’ll receive help managing your pet’s weight and making any necessary dietary or lifestyle changes.

Prevent Pet Obesity

If your pet is struggling with weight gain, you’re probably wondering what to do. After all, pet obesity is linked to a number of serious health conditions, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney disease
  • Arthritis
  • Liver disease
  • Reproductive issues
  • Considering the severity of these health threats along with a potentially shortened life span, helping your pet lose those extra pounds is critical.

    The pet experts at Wheaton Animal Hospital encourage you to schedule a nutritional consult for your pet. We can tailor a diet and exercise regimen for your best friend, as well as provide a thorough examination and screening for secondary illnesses.

    If your pet is currently at his or her optimal weight (hooray!), there are several things you can do for maintenance:

  • Stick to portion control and the correct amount of food to match your pet’s weight, age, and health status (when in doubt, just ask!).
  • Maintain 20-30 minutes of vigorous daily exercise.
  • Avoid dishing out too many treats or feeding your pet table scraps.
  • While pet obesity is reaching epidemic proportions, there’s no reason a vigilant owner can’t keep a beloved companion fit and healthy. By maintaining a nutritious diet and staying active, you can give your pet the best gift of all: a long, energetic, and wonderful life.