By Dr. Brittany Hassell
We all want our furry friends to be with us as long as possible, but did you know keeping your pet at a healthy weight can prolong their life span on average by 2 years? That’s a big difference for just a few pounds!
How do I know if my dog or cat is overweight?
As many as 59.5 percent of cats and 55.8 percent of dogs in the United States are currently overweight, and according to the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention, the number is on the rise.
We tend to use a 9 point body condition score (or BCS) to help determine if a pet is under, ideal, or overweight. Click the boxes below to view the diagrams for the dog and cat body condition system!
But my pet is so cute! What are the benefits of losing weight?
As little as even 5 pounds above the ideal weight of your animal can cause them to be more at risk for medical issues. Some of these include:
- Heart disease
- Skin diseases
Since heavier-set animals tend to be less active, it may take longer to notice illness setting in.
Holy Moly, my pet is a 9/9 on your chart! Where do I even begin?
It is easy to get discouraged when you are told your pet needs to lose 10,20, or even 30 pounds! It is always a good idea to start by getting assistance from your vet. We can help calculate out ideal weight, how many calories they should be getting in a day, and provide you with diet food, measuring cups, and other ideas for their weight loss journey. A lot of the animals I see that are overweight tend to be fed with different types of scoops and cups. A measuring cup is the best way to see how much your pet is truly fed in a day (no coffee tins, scoops, or “Big Gulp” cups allowed!).
Exercise, exercise, exercise! Physical activities are a great way to promote weight loss. Ideally, 30-minute walks daily with your pet is a great place to begin. Cats can be a little more tricky, as they have very different habits compared to dogs. Cats evolved to “stalk” their prey and use as little energy as possible when hunting. Cats tend to be more well-controlled on high protein/ low carb diets. However, we can trick some felines into moving more by making their food time a game! Try “feeding balls” for their food and treats to encourage more active behavior. Play time should try to happen for about 10 minutes 2-3 times per day.
How often should my pet’s progress be evaluated?
Ideal rate of weight loss:
- 1-2% of body weight per week in a dog
- 0.5-2% of body weight per week in a cat
I like to see these patients back every 2-4 weeks to make sure we are getting into the swing of things. All it takes is a quick step on the scales for us to monitor!
Overall, weight loss is a journey and there is no “quick fix”, especially if your furry friend has underlying health conditions (dietary restrictions, metabolic issues, allergies, etc).
On a personal note, my own dog, Rosko became quite thick while I was busy with college. He didn’t get very routine walks and ate whatever he could get ahold of! It took me about 2 years to get Rosko back to a healthy weight. At his heaviest, he was almost 50 pounds! He now weighs about 32 pounds and is a lot more energetic and happy. Please enjoy the before and after of my own success story 😊
Below are some articles you can read through for more information and tips to promote a more healthy lifestyle for your trusted companion. Thanks for reading!