Weighing In On Pet Obesity

Did you know?

An estimated 53% of dogs and 58% of cats are overweight.

How can I tell if my pet is overweight?

One way you can tell is by asking your veterinarian. Ask your pet's doctor if your pet is at a healthy weight or not. Your veterinarian can look your pet over and feel your pet's ribs, hips, and tail area to assess your pet's body composition. Then a recommendation can be made for how much weight your pet needs to lose.

Can medical problems cause weight gain?

Yes, there are medical conditions which can cause pets to gain weight. The following can cause weight gain and can be ruled out by blood work or other diagnostic tests:

  • Hypothyroidism - an underactive thyroid (mostly in dogs)

  • Pancreatic Cancer (mostly in dogs)

  • Hyperadrenocorticism - endocrine disorder (mostly in dogs)

  • Fluid Retention - from heart diseases or cancer

  • Tumors

Medical conditions can cause weight gain and weight gain can cause medical problems.

Being overweight makes pets more likely to have the following conditions:

  • Diabetes

  • Heart disease

  • Osteoarthritis

  • High blood pressure

  • Some forms of cancer

  • Reduced life expectancy

My pet received a clean bill of health other than being overweight. How can I help him lose a few pounds?


Switching to a low calorie or prescription weight loss diet can decrease the calories your pet consumes while still helping him feel full usually with extra fiber. A low calorie diet may be all it if your pet needs to lose just a little weight. Prescription diets are used for larger amounts of weight loss and may speed up the time it takes to achieve the goal weight. Changing the diet alone will not work as well as changing the diet AND measuring the amount of food given. To determine how much to feed in a day, you will need to refer to the feeding chart on the diet you are using. The total daily amount of food should be measured and can be split into two meals. If your pet is accustomed to receiving snacks, a portion of the daily diet amount can be set aside to use as snacks so that they will not add to the calorie count for the day. In a multi-pet household, you may need to feed each pet in a separate room (especially if one is on a diet and the other is not).


If there are no contraindications to exercising, increasing the time, pace, and/or distance of one or more walks per day can help your dog burn more calories. Another option is planned play sessions. Cats and dogs can both benefit from play sessions with you. Slowly increase the amount of play time and the intensity of play. To encourage your pet to play, determine what his favorite toy is. Set the toy out of the pet's reach and sight, then only bring the toy out when it is time for a play session. If your pet has more than one favorite toy, do this with all of them and rotate which toy is used each time.

Go for a weigh-in

Reweigh your pet at home or in the veterinarian's office once a month. Most dogs should lose at least one pound per month. Smaller breed dogs and cats can lose at least half a pound per month. If your pet does not lose any weight in the first month then the methods being used for weight loss will need to be re-evaluated. Once the goal weight is obtained, reweigh your pet every few months to ensure he is maintaining at that weight.

If you think your pet may be overweight or if you are not sure, speak with your veterinarian at your next visit and get started on the path to a healthy weight for your furry friend!


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