Pets come in all shapes and sizes. Some are bigger, some are shorter, and some are just… rounder. If you are reading this, then you may have a friend (cough, cough) who might be concerned their pet is a little overweight. Maybe your friend’s vet has mentioned they are also concerned about their pet’s weight and advised that they should think about slimming down. No judgement here. But where should pet parents start when thinking about this somewhat overwhelming and common issue?
Whatever the reason, the first step when thinking about weight management is to talk honestly with your veterinarian about the signs your pet is heavier than their ideal weight. You can then make a plan to move them gently toward a weight that’s better for them in the long term. Because every pet is a little different, diagnosing a dog or cat as overweight is best done by your veterinarian, who routinely takes body condition, breed, clinical experience, the pet’s historical weight, and physical exam findings into consideration.
But wait: what are some signs your pet might be overweight?
Without getting into specific breed characteristics, there are a few key physical traits that can give you a rough idea about your pet’s body condition. They are: prominence of their ribs, side-view shape of their belly, and the shape of their midsection when viewed from above. Your pet’s ribs should be easy to feel without pressing too hard, but not so prominent they can be individually seen from far away. When viewed from the side, your pet should have a triangular shape to their abdomen as it moves from the end of their ribs to the beginning of their hind legs. Looking from above, there should be a gently sloping hourglass shape to his or her waist that’s easily seen but not extreme. Please note that these are very general guidelines, and many breeds can be at an ideal weight even if they don’t conform to these descriptions.
So why is being overweight bad for your pet?
When pets carry extra fat, they also carry extra risk for health challenges as they progress through life. Cats are prone to type II diabetes, urinary system problems, liver problems, personal hygiene troubles, and mobility challenges associated with extra pressure on their bones and joints. Dogs are particularly prone to orthopedic problems since their skeleton is carrying around those extra pounds. Dogs are also more at risk for overheating and breathing problems than slimmer pets. In addition, that extra fat tissue can make diagnosing certain diseases and undergoing surgery more complicated for both dogs and cats. Over the years, there’s also been a debate if long-term obesity is associated with an increased risk of certain types of cancer. This is a very complicated topic though since genetics, environment, breed, and many other unknown factors also play a role in risk levels for cancer.
How can you as a pet parent help a heavier pet in your life?
A great starting place is to regularly track your pet’s weight using a journal. Recording the food, treats, and supplements your pet consumes each day can help you identify where extra calories might be sneaking in. Measuring any food or treats prior to feeding will make your journal more accurate. The next step is to work with your veterinarian to decide what types of activity will be fun and safe, or if your pet might need a special diet. Remember that weight loss is a long-term journey, and rapid weight loss can be very dangerous for some pets.
Freely is dedicated to supporting you and your pet through this. Our nutrition team is committed to total transparency about the protein, fiber, fat and nutrient contents of our foods. We can help you decide not only which Freely recipe is right for your pet, but how much food is the right amount to include when building your pet’s bowl. If our recipes are not the right option for your pet, we promise to give you our honest recommendation. We applaud you on the hard work you’re doing to improve your pet’s health.
Still have questions?
Our pet nutrition team is here for you. Send us an email, give us a call, or connect with us through LiveChat. We’d love to talk through your pet’s unique nutritional needs!