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How to Tell if Your Pet is Overweight

By Suzanne Alicie

Responsible pet owners have the job of making sure their pets stay healthy and fit. Besides regular vet visits and exercise, it’s also important to make sure your pet is at the proper weight. Overweight animals, just like overweight people, tend to develop other health problems. Some people think it’s cute to see a big fluffy cat or pudgy pooch, and you may believe that a full bodied animal is healthy. But there is a limit to just how big a dog or cat should be allowed to get. This has nothing to do with height or length; the determination of whether a dog or cat is overweight is generally based on their appearance. There are several visual indicators that let you know it’s time to discuss your pet’s food intake with the veterinarian.

Overweight Cats

Felines are known for their lithe bodies, and cat owners can help their kitties watch their figure by keeping an eye on the following areas.

• Ribs should be easily felt but not sticking out prominently.
• From above, your cat should have some indentation between the ribs and the hips; this is the feline hourglass shape that is healthy.
• The cat’s belly should not protrude to the sides or hang down.
• Feline hips should be covered with a light fleshiness. If you have to really search to find the hip bones, your cat is likely overweight.

Overweight Dogs

Because different dog breeds have differently shaped bodies, you may find it more difficult to determine if a small fluffy dog is overweight than if a large shorthaired dog is overweight. Just keep in mind that even if you can’t see it, you can feel it.

• Look and feel the dog's ribs to see whether they are covered by a t-shirt thin layer of skin/meat or a coat thick layer. You should be able to feel the ribs easily.
• Look at your dog from the top and see if you can see and/or feel the shoulders, hips and a slight indentation between the ribs and hips. If these are easily determined, your dog probably isn’t overweight.
• Dogs are often muscular, and when you run your hands along the dog’s body you should be able to feel the structure of the muscles rather than just a solid mass.

Preventing Overweight Pets

Most cats and dogs love treats (especially those tasty TidNips™ from CANIDAE!) but they also have daily food requirements. Read the helpful RPO article “How Much to Feed Your Dog” for some basic guidelines. It’s important that you follow the guidelines on your pet’s food, and adjust the caloric intake to allow for treats as well. To keep your pets from being overweight, make sure that they get exercise every day, eat the required amount of food and are checked for health problems that may cause weight gain.

Helping Overweight Pets Slim Down

If you’ve allowed your pet to become overweight, now you get to meet the challenge of getting your tubby tabby or floppy Fido in shape. Your vet can help you determine just how much your pet should have to eat each day to lose the excess weight in a healthy manner. Keep in mind that the body of dogs and cats is much smaller than human bodies, but starvation diets aren’t any healthier for them than they are for you!

You can also help your overweight pet shed the flab by providing plenty of exercise and playtime. Cats love interactive toys such as the “fishing pole” that has feathers or a soft toy on the end. For overweight dogs, check out these articles: How to Train Your Dog for Agility, Running With Your Dog, and Can Your Pooch Help You Lose Your Paunch?

Photo by By Jose Inacio

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