Weighing In On Pet Obesity

Speaking of fatty foods and weight…have you ever wondered why veterinarians are so insistent about your pet maintaining an optimal weight? I promise it’s not just because we like to lecture or make you feel guilty for giving Plumpy a few extra snacks here and there. After all, those treats makes him happy, right?

Well, maybe for the short term they do, but extra pounds can have huge implications on long term health and comfort, and can even dramatically shorten your pet’s life. We lecture because we care.

Common Health Consequences of Obesity Include:

  • Increased Risk of Diabetes
  • Exacerbation of Joint Pain and Arthritis
  • Increased Risk of Intervertebral Disc Disease and Other Musculoskeletal Injuries
  • Increased Risk of Heart Disease
  • Decreased Immune Function
  • Gastrointestinal Disorders

So how can I tell if my pet is overweight?

We monitor and chart Plumpy’s progress using a grading system called the Body Condition Score. This score is a number based on objective observations such as where fat is deposited and whether or not certain structures, such as ribs, vertebrae, and hip bones, can be felt and/or seen.

You can find a body condition score chart here to help evaluate whether or not your pet is overweight.

Keeping perspective…

So your cat is a couple of pounds overweight. That doesn’t sound like much, so what’s the big deal? Let’s suppose that Plumpy’s ideal weight is 10 pounds. Two additional pounds is 20% more weight than he should be carrying! That’s equivalent to 30 extra pounds for a 150 pound human. So don’t let the low numbers mislead you – it’s still a lot of extra weight for their small frames and it matters!


(Photo by Dancer Burns)

Click here for a pet weight translator that will calculate your pet’s relative weight based

Yikes, how can I help my pet lose this weight?

Great question! I’m so glad you asked. As with humans, the magic bullets for weight loss are diet and exercise.

Diet-wise, sometimes, it’s as simple as cutting out the between-meal snacks and/or cutting back on the amount of food given at meal time. Other times, we have to change the diet fed, altogether. If your pet is already being fed a low-calorie over the counter food, there are several excellent prescription diet options that are designed specifically for weight control. These are available through your veterinarian.


(Dogs with ideal Body Condition Scores. Photo by Dancer Burns)

I also can’t over-emphasize the importance of exercise. In most cases, we can increase the exercise our pets are receiving even if our schedules or personal exercise abilities are limited. Sometimes we do have to get creative with things like play dates with other dogs, doggie daycare, games of fetch, dog walkers who come to your home, cat toys, exercise feeding cubes or balls, etc. Since all pet bodies are not created equal, it’s best to speak with your veterinarian to devise an exercise plan that is appropriate for your pet. We are always happy to help!

Of course, there are exceptions to most every rule. In some cases, diet and exercise won’t be enough if there is an underlying health problem getting in the way. If you feel you are feeding your pet an appropriate amount of a healthy diet and providing plenty of exercise, it may be time to schedule a health check-up to eliminate an underlying medical cause of your pet’s obesity.

-Dr. M. Dancer Burns, DVM

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