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essential nutrition advice for your pet.

How Can You Tell Your Pet is Overweight?


Is My Pet Fat?


By Amanda Baltazar


Hourglass figures aren’t only for Marilyn Monroe and a goal for women everywhere: Your pet should have an hourglass figure too.


Most pets these days are overweight, even if many of their owners are in denial about it.


“I don’t think pet owners truly appreciate how important it is to have their pet at a healthy weight,” says Ashley Gallagher, DVM, a veterinarian at Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington, DC. “I think people don’t believe me or think I’m exaggerating when I tell them an animal’s obese.”


But pet owners should listen, since being overweight puts your dog or cat at risk of many diseases, not least of them diabetes, cardiovascular disease and arthritis.


And while your vet may diagnose an overweight or obese pet, it’s easy to determine for yourself, too.


Tools to Determine Your Pet's Body Condition


The best way to determine whether a pet is obese is by using a system such as the body condition score, says Dr. Jim Dobies, a veterinarian with South Point Pet Hospital in Charlotte, N.C., and a member of the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association.


Body condition scores can be easily found online, where there are pictures of what your pet looks like and what his ideal body looks like. Most websites give scores of one to five or one to 10, and your pet’s physique should resemble a picture of an animal in the middle numbers.


But you can also assess your pet without them, Dr. Dobies says.


The best way is to stand above pets and look down on them. “You should be able to feel their ribs but not see them. If you can see them, they are too skinny,” Dr. Dobies explains. “If you can’t see their ribs, and place your hands on the side of their chest and still can’t, they’re overweight.”


Both dogs and cats should also have a nice taper at their waist (between the abdomen and where the hips go into the socket), he says. “If there is very little or none at all, they are too heavy and they’ll be oval shaped. They’ll be egg shaped rather than hourglass.”


And a very obese pet, he says, “will have a pendulous abdomen, hip fat, and neck fat, all of which are very noticeable.” But pets don’t usually reach this point of obesity until they’re aged at least seven, he adds.



Comments  3

Leave Comment
  • 09/10/2013 05:38pm

    One of my cats was overweight and seemed to be hungry all of the time. I finally decided to take her outside for 10 minutes every day, even if she just sat on the porch. Almost immediately she seemed to be less hungry. I figure she was just simply bored and eating was her remedy. I'm not sure she's lost much weight but at least she's not bugging me to feed her every time I got near the kitchen.

  • Only owners make fat pets
    09/10/2013 08:06pm

    I'm glad to see you addressing the pet obesity issue. Most of the dogs I see every day are overweight if not obese - the American public has NO idea what a healthy weight dog looks like anymore. It is easy to keep a dog at a proper weight, too. Just don't feed them as much and exercise them more.

    I disagree about not being able to see any ribs though. There is nothing wrong with seeing the last rib or two especially when the dog is inhaling. Having a leaner dog is much healthier and happier for the animal!

  • Fat belly...
    09/12/2013 12:50am

    My cat was EXTREMELY skinny when we got him. Hips, spine, and ribs prominent. He's doing much better at about 11.9-12.4 lbs. You can see the waist, but he still has that fat belly... (11 year old neutered male) Does anyone know if anything can be done for the belly? Or is he stuck with it. I feel bad, we laugh at him when he goes trotting around and it wags back and forth, LOL!

Is My Pet Fat?

Did you know as little as 1 pound of extra weight can be harmful for your dog or cat? Take our quiz to test your knowledge on weight issues and solutions for pets.


  • Question 1 of 5

  • 1. The ribs of a healthy pet should be easily felt.

    • True

    • False