It’s not easy for some of you. I get it. You want your pet to love her food. You stress when he won’t eat (even though he turns up his nose about once a week), so you feed table scraps and fridge fare to tempt him. Or you know she’s a pig, but you can’t keep your family from overstuffing her in your absence.

In any case, if you’re like a lot of my clients, you may be in denial over how plump your pet might be. That’s why I’m here to point out the obvious: Your pet is better off too skinny than too fat –– within reason, of course. But generally speaking, that’s the case. Thin pets tend to live longer. So you need not stress over a couple of pokey ribs or a waistline worthy of Ms. Monroe. 

But to get there, first you have to admit to the fact that your pet is overweight.

According to current stats, about 50% of pets are overweight. About 20% are obese. So how likely is it that YOUR pets are too? Very. Yet you might not get it unless I tell you how to come to that realization. So here goes:

Sure, every dog breed is different, and every cat has his or her own size, but the most important thing is getting to know your own pet’s body type. A good rule of thumb: How did he look when he was 12-24 months old? Revisit old photos if you must, but recall it clearly. 

At this age, pups are growing out of their lankiness. They’re developing some mild soft covering to their ribs, but they’re still muscular. Some dog breeds have wide haunches. Some cats will develop a pooch on their bellies. And all that’s OK. But once your vet exclaims, “Oh my God, she’s blown up like a tick!” you have to know it’s all over. No excuses. 

Your best bet at this point, after remembering where your pet was at his prime, is to turn to the “Body Condition Score” system. See that #3 picture below? That’s his prime. Now your job is to beat THAT. 

(Chart courtesy of Hill's Pet Nutrition - view PDF image here.)

So get to it, OK?

Oh, and don't forget to email me (p.khuly@petmd.com) the topics you’d most like to hear about––medical, money, ethical or otherwise––and prepare yourself for my opinionated answers.

Dr. Patty Khuly