An (im)perfect 10: What you need to know about pet obesity

Fat black and white cat lays upside down on carpet

“Thick boy!” “Chunky doggo!” “Fat floofer!”

Log onto Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other social media platform and you’ll see pictures of overweight dogs and cats with thousands of likes, heart-eyed emojis, and comments like these.

You might think a fat dog or cat is adorable, but in reality, obesity is no laughing matter.

Some facts about dog and cat obesity:

According to The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP):

  • 56% of dogs are classified as overweight (body condition score [BCS] of 6-7) or obese (BCS 8-9)
  • 60% of cats were classified as overweight or obese by their veterinary healthcare professional.
  • 2 million dogs are above a healthy weight
  • 5 million cats are above a healthy weight, based on 2017 pet population projections provided by the American Pet Products Association (APPA)

Obesity in dogs and cats leads to:

  • Shorter life spans
  • Cancer
  • Urinary bladder stones
  • Osteoarthritis and other joint problems
  • And more

Additionally, obesity can indicate other issues, such as hypothyroidism in dogs.

Obesity is the most common preventable disease in dogs and cats. Here’s how to know if your pet is obese, and how to help them lose weight if they are.

How to tell if your pet is overweight

Fat brown dog lays in grass smiling

People are desensitized as to what an overweight dog or cat looks like today. We’ve come to think of bigger pets as normal, when really, they are overweight or obese.

The best way to determine if your pet is a healthy weight is to have them examined by a veterinarian. Your vet will score your pet’s body condition from 1 (emaciated) to 10 (obese). A healthy result is right in the middle.

According to Hill’s Pet Nutrition, no matter what breed your dog is, you can look for these signs of a healthy weight:

  • You can feel all your dog’s ribs without a thick layer of fat over them.
  • Your dog’s chest is wider than his abdomen; a dog that is the same size all the way down is overweight.
  • Regular breathing (no excessive panting) and activity level (no laziness).

Cat owners can try these techniques:

  • Feel the ribs – the padding over your kitty’s ribs shouldn’t feel any thicker than the padding over the back of your hand.
  • Look down at your cat while they’re standing. If they’re a healthy weight, you’ll notice a “waist” on them – a slight indentation over the hips. If their sides bulge out, they may be overweight. However, because many cats are fluffy, this method may be harder to use accurately.
  • Monitor their playfulness and grooming habits. Overweight cats sometimes stop playing or grooming themselves.

How to help your dog or cat lose weight

Like humans, dogs and cats need proper diet and regular exercise to maintain a healthy weight. Talk with our veterinarian about the proper amount of food for your pet, the best type of food, and how much to exercise them.

Some dog exercises include:

  • Taking a walk.
  • Taking a run.
  • Play fetch for 15 minutes, twice a day.
  • Play chase.
  • Have your dog chase a laser pointer.
  • Go for a swim.

To exercise a cat, you can:

  • Play chase with a laser pointer.
  • Use a feather, string, or other dangling toy to make your cat jump and run.
  • Play chase using a pompom or other cat-sized ball.
  • Blow bubbles for your cat to chase.
  • Get a cat tree to encourage jumping and climbing.

Not all dogs or cats can tolerate the same exercises. A Labrador may thrive with a daily jog, but a Pug is another story. A kitten may do well with jumping, while a senior cat needs something less strenuous. Consult a Cahaba Valley Animal Clinic veterinarian to ask which exercises are ideal for your pet.

Measure how much your pet eats and make sure it’s within our vet’s recommendations. If you typically just “keep the bowl full” and your pet is getting a bit tubby, try feeding at specific times of the day. Avoid giving too many extra treats, too, but never limit access to fresh water.

Our vet might recommend a special food for your pet – what worked for the puppy or kitten stage might not work so well now that your fur baby is an adult or a senior. A simple food change can work wonders.

If you think your pet is overweight, bring it up at your pet’s next checkup. We’ll tell you the best plan to get Fluffy and Fido back down to a healthy weight. You’ll notice a healthier, happier pet. Contact us online or call us at 205-980-0078 to book an appointment today!

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