When bigger isn’t better: Obesity in cats and dogs

A fat black and white cat lays on the floor upside down

“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.

According to The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), 56% of dogs and 60% of cats were classified as overweight (body condition score [BCS] 6-7) or obese (BCS 8-9) by their veterinary healthcare professional.

These results indicate an estimated 50.2 million dogs and 56.5 million cats are above 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.

When 10 isn’t perfect: Signs of obesity in dogs and cats

A fat brown dog lays in the grass smiling

Thanks to all those “fat fluffer!” posts, people are desensitized as to what an overweight dog or cat looks like. 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). You want a healthy result right in the middle.

According to Hill’s Pet Nutrition, no matter what breed your dog is, you should be able to feel all your dog’s ribs without a thick layer of fat over them. Your dog’s chest should also be wider than his abdomen; a dog that is the same size all the way down is overweight.  Other signs of being overweight are your dog panting more than usual or acting lazier than normal.

Cat owners should also feel the ribs – the padding over your kitty’s ribs shouldn’t feel any thicker than the padding over the back of your hand. Another way to evaluate body condition is to 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. 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.

Dogs and cats need exercise, overweight or not. Dogs need walks, or at the least, a rousing game of fetch. Cats don’t typically take well to being leashed and walked, but a laser pointer or feather toy for a few minutes a couple of times a day is all your feline needs to stay fit.  A cat tree is also helpful, as it encourages your cat to climb and jump.

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.

Your Sun Dog Cat Moon Veterinary Clinic 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 even 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 843-437-0063 to make an appointment today!