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How to Tell if Your Pet is Overweight and Why it Matters

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There is a worldwide obesity crisis amongst the global population leading to a rapid rise in cardiovascular diseases, musculoskeletal disorders, and even certain types of cancer.

While this is certainly a serious issue that deserves our attention, relatively few people know that pet obesity is also common and is one of the most preventable health issues we find in dogs, cats, and other types of pets.

The simple truth is, overweight pets tend to live shorter lives than lean and fit pets. Not only are obese and overweight dogs and cats at a higher risk of developing a variety of deadly diseases and disorders, but they are also far more susceptible to arthritis, spinal injuries, breathing problems, and various other health issues that can negatively impact their quality of life.

funny fat cat sitting on wooden table in kitchen

How Can We Help?

As a pet parent, you only want what is best for your furry friend. While weight management is a serious issue, there are plenty of things you can do to get your pet’s weight under control. The first thing to do is identify whether or not your pet is overweight. Knowing how to help your beloved pet lose weight is just as important as recognizing that it needs to be done in the first place. This is where we can help!


pets obesity corpulent kitties & portly pooches

How to Tell if Your Pet is Overweight or Obese

Speak with a Veterinarian

While it is not always the most comfortable topic of conversation, asking a veterinarian if your dog or cat is at its ideal body weight is one of the most effective ways you can know with any degree of certainty. Booking an online appointment with a Hello Ralphie vet can give you the answers you are looking for about your pet’s weight right away. An online vet appointment is also a great opportunity to ask for weight loss tips and how you can create a healthy meal plan to address your canine or feline friend’s weight issue.

While speaking with a veterinarian will give you the most accurate answer, there are a few quick tips you can follow to check your pet’s weight for yourself.

Check the Ribs

Whether you are dealing with a cat or a dog, you should be able to easily feel and count your pet’s ribs by lightly running two fingers across either side of its body. If the ribs are indiscernible, there is a good chance your pet is overweight.

Visually Inspect Your Pet from Above

Another way to check if your furry friend is overweight is to stand above it and look down at its body’s profile. There should be somewhat of an indentation near your pet’s midsection and they should have somewhat of an hourglass-shaped figure.

If you are examining a dog, the waist should be observable behind the ribs, and the vertebrae and hip bones should also be somewhat not too visible. With a cat, there should also be an hourglass shape near the waist when you stand from above.

If you have a particularly furry cat or dog, a visual inspection can be a little bit more difficult. If this is the case, lightly run your hand across its body and feel for the hourglass shape.

When you view both animals from the side, you should see a slight upward slope where you expect its stomach to be known as an abdominal tuck. If you can see it, that is a great sign that your pet doesn’t have a weight problem. Cats, in particular, tend to carry weight near their abdomen when they are overweight, so the tuck is important.

While this all sounds fairly complicated, you are basically just checking to make sure that your pet is not overly round and their ribs are not obscured by a layer of fat. For more information on how to inspect your pet’s weight, read our guide to checking your pet’s body condition score and BMI.

Why is it Important to Know if Your Pet is Overweight?

little fat dog sitting on sidewalk outdoor during day

Greater Risk of Various Diseases and Disorders

As mentioned above, obesity and excess weight put your beloved pet at an increased risk for developing a wide variety of serious weight-related disorders, such as diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, various cancers, and more.

Weaker Immune System

Not only are they at a higher risk of a variety of diseases and other health issues, obese and overweight pets also have weaker immune systems, meaning their bodies are less capable of fighting off infectious diseases. If your overweight dog or cat does become ill, it also takes longer for them to heal.

Shorter Overall Lifespan

On average, overweight dogs and cats live shorter lives than animals that are kept at a healthy weight. While we all want our pets to be with us as long as possible, this is not the only reason why you need to practice pet obesity prevention.

Reduced Quality of Life

Breathing problems are common with overweight dogs and cats, which can cause them an incredible amount of discomfort. They also tend to have very reduced energy levels. They stop playing and doing the things they love. All types of obese pets tend to exercise less, making matters worse and severely weakening the animal’s muscle strength, bone, and joint health.

Skin problems are more common in overweight dogs than those kept at an ideal weight. Obese cats can have a harder time grooming, which can lead to skin and coat problems. Changes in liver function are also common in overweight dogs and cats, as fat accumulates within the liver. This can cause serious issues, like reduced appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and severe lethargy.

Final Words

Every pet owner wants what’s best for their pet. It is so important to follow the steps required to make sure your furry friend has a healthy body weight. The first step to help an overweight or obese pet is to recognize that there is a problem.

While it may sound scary, pet obesity and weight issues are fairly simple to address after they have been identified. While it can take time and effort to lose the extra weight, there is plenty you can do to get your pet back on the right track.

For more information about managing your pet’s weight, consider reading through the following helpful guides:

As always, if you have any questions about your pet’s weight, putting together a weight loss plan with fewer calories, or your animal’s overall wellness, Hello Ralphie vets can help

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