Many people who view their pet as part of their family, may humanize their four-legged family member and offer them an overabundant amount of food or table scraps and high-calorie treats, which contribute to weight gain. While you may view food as a way to show your pet affection, by overindulging your furry pal, you can be harming their health and wellbeing. Obesity is affecting an increasing number of U.S. pets, and an overweight pet can face serious health consequences that decrease their longevity and reduce their quality of life (QOL). Our Caring Hands Animal Hospital team wants to help prevent pet obesity by providing tips to help you learn how to maintain your pet’s healthy weight. 

Benefits of maintaining your pet’s healthy weight 

Additional pounds can shorten your pet’s life span and decrease their QOL. However, maintaining your pet’s healthy weight offers numerous benefits such as:

  • Improved longevity — Obesity can reduce your pet’s life expectancy by up to 2.5 years, compared with pets that maintain a healthy weight.
  • Reduced disease risk — Obesity in pets is linked to a number of diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. Keeping your pet at a healthy weight can minimize these risks.
  • Better mobility — Excess weight can be tough on a pet’s joints, often leading to arthritis and other mobility issues. Maintaining your pet’s healthy weight helps prevent these problems and keeps your furry pal active and agile.
  • Easier breathing — Overweight and obese pets often develop respiratory issues that make breathing difficult. By helping to keep your pet at a healthy weight, you can prevent them from developing respiratory issues, making exercise and play more enjoyable for your dog or cat.
  • More energy — A pet at a healthy weight generally has more energy and is better able to engage in physical activities such as walking, running, and playing.
  • Better temperature regulation — Pets that are at a healthy weight often find it easier to regulate their body temperature, an important consideration in both hot and cold climates.
  • Increased QOL — A healthy weight pet’s physical comfort and ability to engage in enjoyable activities contributes to their overall wellbeing and happiness.
  • Fewer veterinary expenses — Preventive care is less expensive than treating diseases or conditions that arise because of obesity. Keeping your pet at a healthy weight is good for their health and your wallet. 

How to assess your pet’s weight

A pet’s ideal weight is highly subjective, and while your pet’s body weight is a helpful data point, their body condition score (BCS) provides a more accurate assessment of their overall body fat.  A pet’s BCS  is similar to a human’s body mass index (BMI). An at-home assessment is quick and easy and can tell you a lot about your pet’s physical condition. Assess your pet’s BCS by doing the following:

  • Palpate your pet’s ribs — You should easily feel your pet’s ribs under a slight fat covering. You should not have to apply pressure or push in with your fingertips. An overweight pet has excess fat tissue along the ribs, which feels similar to your palm’s fleshy parts. 
  • Look for a waistline — When you view your standing pet from above, they should have a visible waist (i.e., hourglass shape) between their last rib and the pelvis. Overweight pets have no visible waist or may curve outward.
  • Check for an abdominal tuckObserve your standing pet from the side. They should have a visible tuck or upward slope from their last rib to their abdomen, with no roundness or bulging.

If your pet is overweight, you can help them shed the extra pounds by scheduling a weight assessment with our Caring Hands Animal Hospital team. We will thoroughly examine your pet to ensure they have no underlying health conditions contributing to their weight gain. Based on your pet’s BCS and current weight, we can develop a safe weight-loss plan specifically for them. 

How to maintain your pet’s healthy weight

Keeping your pet at a healthy weight is the best way to prevent obesity-associated issues. To manage your pet’s weight appropriately, follow these tips: 

  • Scheduling regular wellness visits — Our veterinary team will perform a weight assessment at your pet’s wellness visit to monitor their weight and body condition, and to track their health. 
  • Calculate your pet’s calorie requirements — Use a calorie calculator to determine the exact number of calories your pet needs every day, and read their food bag label to calculate an exact meal portion. 
  • Factor in treats — Treats should make up only 10% of your pet’s daily calorie intake, and you can easily overlook how quickly calories from treats can add up. Substitute unhealthy commercial pet treats, which are often filled with artificial ingredients and empty calories, with healthy single-ingredient alternatives, such as:
    • Carrots
    • Green beans
    • Apple slices
    • Blueberries
    • Green peas
    • Lean, skinless, boneless, unseasoned meat (e.g., chicken, turkey)
    • Cooked pasta
    • Catnip
    • Cat grass
  • Make exercise a part of your routine — By ensuring your pet receives adequate daily exercise, you help maintain their muscle mass and support their cardiovascular health and metabolic function. 

The best way to show your pet how much you love them is by taking a proactive role in managing their weight and investing in their long-term health and wellbeing. Contact our Caring Hands Animal Hospital team if you would like us to perform your furry pal’s wellness examination and determine whether your pet is carrying excess weight.