Is My Pet Overweight? by Dr. Merali

Key Points

Approximately 1 in 2 dogs and 2 in 5 cats are overweight.  This means that there is a 40-50% chance that your pet is too.  Cats and dogs are classified as “overweight” when their body weight is more than 10% above their optimal weight.  They are classified as “obese” when their body weight exceeds 20% over optimal weight.


Obesity is an accumulation of fatty tissue in excess of what is required for proper body function.   Overfeeding, lack of exercise, genetics, age and underlying disease can also contribute to obesity.  Obesity is a serious disease that can predispose an animal to many health disorders and can actually decrease your pet’s lifespan.  Therefore, it is essential to that your pet’s weight be managed at an early stage.


Obesity can be assessed by: (1) comparing an animal’s present weight with its weight at maturity; (2) using breed standards; (3) scoring body condition; and (4) taking body measurements.  The first two tells us what weight an animal should be while the third tells us if an animal if overweight and if so, to what degree.  Finally, body measurements actually determine what a pet’s ideal weight should be.


When a pet becomes overweight, it is important that your veterinarian advise on a suitable weight loss program including diet, exercise and behaviour education.  A suitable calorie restricted balanced prescription should be selected, fed and adjusted under the guidance of your veterinarian.  Also, regular exercise, consistent activity and behaviour modification are just as important as diet in preventing and assisting in weight loss.


A pet under weight management should be weighed and rechecked as often as every 2 weeks.  This allows close monitoring of the weight loss and diet so that changes can be made where necessary.  Weight loss is most successful for those who attend on a regular basis.  Achieving an ideal weight is an ongoing and interactive process that depends on both your commitment and ours.


Achieving weight loss in overweight pets can be challenging; however, successful weight loss is achievable with the right management and monitoring program.  Talking to your veterinarian about your pet’s weight is the first step towards battling obesity.  Remember, chubby is not the new healthy for pets!