Is my pet overweight? It’s a question I wish I heard more often than I do. The truth is that I see a lot of overweight dogs and cats, their owners do not realize the pet is overweight. Even the ones that do realize that their four-legged friend is a little pudgy seem to think that the extra weight is cute or a sign of their affection for their pet.
Many times, people owning overweight pets see treats and snacks as a means of bonding with their pet. Who can blame them? What’s more satisfying than making your best friend happy? Unfortunately, as well meaning as these pet owners are, they are truly doing their pet no favors by allowing the weight gain to continue unchecked. In the long run, their pet will suffer for it, with diseases like arthritis, heart disease, diabetes and others.
Determining Whether a Dog or Cat is Overweight
One of the most helpful tools in determining whether a pet is overweight or not is the body condition score or BCS. The BCS provides a means of accurately assessing the body condition, or amount of stored fat, and assigning a numerical value to the score. Body condition score charts vary and can be ranked from one to five or from one to nine. With both scales, the lower numbers indicate a lack of stored fat, indicating that the animal is underweight, and the higher numbers indicate an increase in stored fat, indicating that the animal is overweight. The ideal body score lies in the center: a BCS of 3/5 is considered ideal on the 5 point scale and a BCS of 5/9 is considered normal on the 9 point scale.
How is the Body Condition Score Determined?
The following charts portray the body condition charts for dogs and cats, respectively.
Cat Body Condition Score Chart
Dog Body Condition Score Chart
As you can see from the cat body condition score chart, a cat of ideal body weight has the following characteristics:
“Well-proportioned; ribs palpable with a slight fat covering; observe waist behind ribs; abdominal fat pad minimal”
In dogs, the ideal body condition looks like this:
“Ribs palpable without excess fat covering; abdomen tucked up when viewed from the side; waist observed behind ribs when viewed from above”
Does your pet fit these descriptions? Or does he/she look more like the dogs and cats pictured with body condition scores of six, seven, eight or even nine? If the answer is yes, don’t panic. But don’t ignore the problem either.
What Should I do if my Pet is Overweight or Obese?
The first thing to do is contact your veterinarian. Your pet will need to be examined before he/she goes on a diet. Your veterinarian will be more than happy to sit down and help you decide how to help your dog or cat lose the excess weight. Usually, weight loss is accomplished through dietary adjustments and increased exercise. Your veterinarian will help you determine which diet is appropriate for your pet and which treats, if any, are appropriate and how often they can be offered. He/she will also help you devise an exercise plan for your pet which both you and your pet can achieve. Your vet will also help you monitor your pet’s progress through the weight loss program and help you devise a plan to keep your dog or cat lean and trim once he/she has shed the pounds.