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Your Pet's Weight - Healthy or Tubby?

Sunday’s unexpectedly warm afternoon in an otherwise much cooler than normal summer here in the Seattle area was a little much for Tucker below, though it doesn’t seem to have bothered Abbey at all.

Unlike other parts of the country this summer, our days of very warm weather have been few so far this year. Hot summer weather can be even more stressful on our cats and dogs if they are overwieght. Since we control what our pets eat, you’d think it would be simple to keep our pets at a healthy weight.

But for many people it’s not easy, nor does it feel simple at all.

Pet food marketing is very slick and it’s especially difficult when your cat or dog’s eager face and big eyes like Gretchen’s silently seem to say “more please!”.

Plus, with all the different body types dogs and cats have, it can be confusing to know if your 10 year old Bulldog is overweight – aren’t bulldogs supposed to be round like that? How can you tell if your young Himalayan cat is carrying around a few too many pounds – he’s so fluffy, it’s all just hair, isn’t it?

Today Dr. Frank addresses some common questions on the subject of pets and weight.

Q: Is my pet overweight?

Dr. Frank: I know we’re all tired of hearing that most of us humans are overweight. But is that true of our pets too?

A 2010 study done by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found over half of our pets (both dogs and cats) are overweight. They learned that not only has the percentage of overweight pets been going up, but the number of pets considered obese has also been increasing. Unfortunately, I have observed this trend in my patients as well.

Q: Why does it matter?

Dr. Frank: Just as with ourselves, excess weight on your cat or dog can cause arthritis, diabetes, liver/kidney disease, high blood pressure and other medical issues. According to Dr. Steve Budsberg of the University of Georgia and past-president of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, many joint problems are related to excess weight. As a result, many surgeries can be avoided if pets are kept at a normal weight.

One way to help keep your veterinary medical expenses down is to keep your pet at a healthy weight.

Q: How do I know if my pet is a healthy weight?

Dr. Frank: Many of us think “its just a pound or two overweight” – but if your pet only weighs 10 pounds, 2 extra pounds is 20% excess body weight it is carrying around. That’s the equivalent of a 190 lb man being 38 pounds overweight. Instead, it is best to look at your pet’s “body condition”.

According to the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) here is how to check your pet’s weight:

Healthy Weight

  • Ribs are easily felt
  • Tucked abdomen – no sagging stomach
  • Waist when viewed from above


  • Difficult to feel ribs
  • Sagging stomach
  • Broad, flat back
  • No waist

To see the difference in pictures you can compare to your pet’s body condition, go to the Pet Weight Check page on the APOP website.

Q: What do I do if my pet is overweight?

Dr. Frank: First and foremost, see your vet and discuss your concerns. Together you can put together a plan that is appropriate for you and your pet.

You can read our previous post regarding Food Energetics and put your pet on a healthy quality pet food, appropriate for his temperament.

If your pet is obese, your vet may even suggest a special food to help your cat or dog slowly lose weight. He or she will likely suggest regular visits to monitor the weight loss and adjust the daily food intake. Rapid weight loss can also be detrimental to your pet’s health, so particularly if your pet is heavy enough to be considered obese, be sure to work with your veterinarian to help your pet safely lose weight.

At the very least, you can start to read more pet food labels and get your dog or cat on a healthy, high-quality pet food. Feeding pet foods with lots of grains may stimulate your pet to want to eat more, without providing the nutrition your pet needs. Choosing a nutrient dense food may even save you money as you will actually feed your pet less food.

Owners of local, quality pet food stores such as Sam of Sam’s Dogs and Cats Naturally here in Monroe are very knowledgeable about the ingredients in the foods they carry. These people can be an excellent additional resource for you when choosing the right foods for your cat or dog.

Remember to count all the treats you give your dog or cat as part of her daily allotment and pay attention to the treat ingredients. If you need to decrease your pet’s meal portion, but she still seems hungry, green beans can often be used to “fill the void”.

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