How to Tell If Your Dog or Cat is Overweight.

Many of us make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and become healthier. This approach is just as important for our pets...

As is traditional for a New Year (and in this case, a new decade), many of us make resolutions for enhanced success and happiness. Not surprisingly, the top three New Year’s resolutions usually involve diet, exercise and weight loss!

We all recognise the importance of weight management for us as humans, and how it can relate to general health and wellbeing. However, just as we value the importance of maintaining a correct weight, so too is this important for dogs and cats.

Animals can’t manage their weight by themselves and are completely dependent on their owners to make sure they remain at a healthy mass. This responsibility is not a heavy one (pun intended!) though, and there are some straightforward steps we can take to ensure our four-legged- friends’ health and happiness.

While your veterinarian will be able to tell you what your pet’s ideal weight is, there are some simple checks you can do yourself. If these identify that your cat or dog is overweight, you can take action to remedy this.

How to tell if your cat or dog is overweight

Some people may be alarmed if they pet their dog or cat, and feel their ribs. However, if you can just feel the ribs under their fur, with some padding over the top, then they are at an ideal weight. But, if you can see their ribs without touching your pet, then they may be underweight.

The flip side to this is if you can’t feel any hint of ribs. According to CareVets, if your pet’s ribs cannot easily be felt when running your hand along their side, they are overweight. You may then need to establish a diet plan for them. This simple rib check is a great way to judge if your dog or cat is a little too stout.

Another way to check if your dog or cat needs to go on a diet is by simply standing above them and looking down. An hourglass figure, which looks like a slight indentation at their waist, is the ideal shape. If your pet looks more oval, or round, then they may be overweight. Similarly, a collar that needs loosening, difficulty walking, or shortness of breath are other tell-tale signs.

What to do about it

Weight problems are common in cats and dogs, so there’s no reason to be alarmed if you notice yours getting heavier. This can be successfully managed through changes in diet and lifestyle. You can turn to an animal dietary specialist for a personalised eating and training program for your pet if you choose, but overweight can usually be remedied quite simply at home.

One way to reduce your pet’s extra fat is to watch what they are eating. Many owners leave copious amounts of food in their pet’s bowls for the animals to eat whenever they feel like it. This can mean that the cat or dog eats more than they need each time they visit their bowl. Avoid ‘free-feeding’ your cat or dog, and instead set up a feeding schedule to monitor their intake.

Another food management plan is to leave human food to humans. Table scraps are full of sugar, calories, additives, and preservatives that aren’t ideal for a dog or cat’s digestive system. To keep the excess sugars and fat off your pet, try to feed them only high-quality pet food.

In addition to the food monitoring tips above, a strategy to help weight loss is to slowly increase the exercise your pet is doing. Just a few extra minutes each day can help your cat or dog get into their ideal shape.

By recognising that your cat or dog is overweight, you can set up a plan to create a healthier, happier pet. You can set yourself and your pet up for success this New Year by keeping your fur baby at their ideal weight.