Maintaining a healthy weight for your pet isn’t always as straightforward as ‘just don’t feed it too much’. Some pet owners can be in the opposite position with their pet struggling to gain weight. Regardless of what end of the spectrum your fur baby is on, maintaining a healthy weight can be the difference between your pet living a long and healthy life or being diagnosed with a life-threatening condition.

pet-obesity

Why is maintaining a healthy weight so important?

Pets are considered overweight when they become 10%–20% heavier than their ideal weight. Overweight and underweight pets are predisposed to various diseases and disorders that can ultimately shorten their lifespan.

Pet obesity increases the risk and prevalence of metabolic disorders, endocrine disease, reproductive disorders, cardiopulmonary disease, urinary disorders, dermatological disease, arthritis, and neoplasia. Whilst nutrition deficiency can lead to chronic gastrointestinal problems, depression, skin and coat issues, brain development, vision impairment and poor immune system.

Both are major health concerns, and both are treated differently over a long period of time and in some cases for life.

How can I know if my pet is at a healthy weight?

Determining the ideal weight for your pet is subjective with many ideal breed weight references and pet body scoring systems available. Within clinics, veterinarians may refer to a body score chart to visually demonstrate where your pet sits on this scale and where the aim would be to have them.

The Body Condition System uses visual inspection and sense of touch to help specify if your pet is considered too thin, at an ideal weight or too heavy. Within these categories, your vet will determine the severity by providing a specific Body Chart Score (BCS) from generally 1 to 9.

The ribs, waistline and tummy will be visually assessed and lightly examined to determine if your pet is over or under weight.

Canine Body Scoring

Starting with the ribs, you should be able to easily palpate these with only minimal amounts of fat covering the area. By viewing the waste line from above, an inward curve behind the ribs should be seen. From the side of your dog, a slight ‘abdominal tuck’ should be seen behind the ribs. If your dog is overweight, it will have excess fat covering the ribs and the waistline or abdominal tuck will not be seen.

body-condition-score-medium-dog

Feline Body Scoring

Similarly, to performing a canine BCS you will not be able to easily palpate the ribs or backbone of an overweight cat. Overweight cats will not have that subtle abdominal tuck that meet their hips but rather a tummy that drags all the way down and may swing when they walk.

 

How can I help manage my pet’s weight?

Come up with a plan

There are many factors as to why your loving companion may be overweight or underweight, and therefore veterinary advice should be sort out before developing a weight management plan.

Although diet plays a large part in the cause of weight problems for our pets, some breeds are predisposed, and some medications are known to cause weight gain. If a medical condition is causing your pet to gain weight, you need to work with your veterinarian to come up with a treatment plan that will manage the condition and help your pet lose those extra kilos.

Determine a daily feeding requirement

Depending on your pets age, life stage and current weight situation, this will determine what food is suitable for your pet and the amount it will need to maintain a healthy weight.

Premium diets are designed to make your pet feel fuller for longer by using ingredients rich with nutrients and amino acids. Investing in a veterinary approved diet is going to ensure your pet is receiving the correct amount of food for its body weight goals, support the immune system and help with signs of aging.

Your veterinary clinic can help offer advice on suitable food and the recommended amount noting the daily recommended amount and food type can be subject to change as your pet starts to lose or gain weight.

Exercise

Daily activity and exercise can be more of a challenge to implement depending on the breed of your pet. Some breeds are more active than others so encouraging or increasing exercise may not be easy or in some cases, even possible so it’s important to always start slow and increase slightly to prevent injury or an aversion towards it. Incorporating some fun games or playing with other animals can be an easy way to encourage some movement and increase activity levels.

Weight checks

Once you have determined how much weight your pet needs to lose or gain, monitoring and measuring the weight of your pet regularly is the simplest way to know if you’re on track and if any updates are needed to the weight management plan.