Obesity is the number one health threat for our pets. It can lead to diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, and can also worsen conditions such as arthritis and orthopedic problems. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) found 58% of U.S. cats and 53% of dogs were overweight in their 2014 survey.

Why are they overweight?

  • Feeding too much- Usually feeding guidelines are printed on the back of the bag. Feed the amount suggested for the desired weight of your pet. The suggested feeding amounts are based on averages. Your pet may need a substantially different amount. Use your discretion due to your pet’s age and activity level.
  • Table Scraps- Often the food we slip under the table to our pets can be harmful. It can be high in calories, not easily digestible, and some foods can be toxic to pets.
  • Not enough exercise- Pets need exercise to stay in shape and burn calories. Often pets gain weight in winter due to less activity. Older pets can have trouble moving as freely if they have arthritis or other medical conditions. Find a fun, interactive, and safe form of exercise. Swimming can be a great alternative for pets with mobility or orthopedic issues.
  • Medical conditions- Conditions such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease can cause weight gain.

Pet on Scale

How do you know if your pet is overweight?

Weighing your pet regularly and keeping track is a good idea. Although, judging a pet by their weight alone may not be appropriate due to so many variations in breeds and especially in mixed breeds. We evaluate pets using a Body Condition Score.

Body Condition Score

Body condition scoring (BCS) allows you to assess pet’s condition more appropriately. The BCS is measured on a scale of 1-9. There are three parts you need to check:

  • Ribs- Run both your hands, palms towards your pet’s ribcage on both sides of their body.
  • Profile-View your standing pet from the side when you are level with them.
  • Overhead- Look down upon at your standing pet from an overhead view.

On the BCS scale, a 1-3 score would be too thin, a 4-5 score would be ideal, and a 6-9 score would be too heavy. Here are some descriptions of each score:

  1. Ribs, spine, pelvic bones and all bony prominences evident from a distance. No apparent body fat. Obvious loss of muscle mass.
  2. Ribs, spine and pelvic bones easily visible. No palpable fat. Some evidence of other bony prominence. Minimal loss of muscle mass.
  3. Ribs easily palpated and may be visible with no palpable fat. Tops of spine visible. Pelvic bones becoming prominent. Obvious waist.
  4. Ribs easily palpable, with minimal fat covering. Waist easily noted when viewed from above. Abdominal tuck evident.
  5. Ribs palpable without excess fat covering. Waist observed behind ribs when viewed from above. Abdomen tucked up when viewed.
  6. Ribs palpable with slight excess fat covering. Waist is apparent viewed from above but is not prominent. Abdominal tuck apparent.
  7. Ribs palpable with difficulty; heavy fat cover. Noticeable fat deposits over spinal area and base of tail. Waist absent or barely visible. Abdominal tuck may be present.
  8. Ribs not palpable under very heavy fat cover, or palpable only with significant pressure. Heavy fat deposits over spinal area and base of tail. Waist absent. No abdominal tuck. Obvious abdominal distension may be present.
  9. Massive fat deposits over thorax, spine and base of tail. Waist and abdominal tuck absent. Fat deposits on neck and limbs. Obvious abdominal distention.


How do I get my pet to lose weight?

  • Increase activity- Take them for a walk, for a swim, play fetch, run an agility course.
  • Decrease Calories-
    • Consult your veterinarian. A thorough history and physical exam can help indicate if further testing to rule out medical conditions leading to obesity is necessary. The Veterinarian can help you create a safe and effective weight loss plan.
    • Measure their food and feed a little less than the suggested amount.
    • Decrease the amount of treats and table scraps.
    • Get the whole family on board so no one is sneaking them extra treats.
    • There are specially formulated prescription weight loss diets with lower calories and higher fiber. Some even have ingredients to increase the metabolism.

If your pet is not in the “ideal” category on the BCS scale, consult your veterinarian. We can help you determine whether a medical condition is to blame and/or which diet would be best for your pet. Call us at 751-2753.

To learn more about the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention or to take part in their annual pet obesity survey, visit www.petobesityprevention.org.