Obesity in Dogs and Cats (The Most Common Problem I See)

I would like to start by addressing one of the top two issues that I see in dogs and cats: OBESITY. We all love to feed our four-legged family members, but too often we overfeed them. Cats specifically are often being fed inappropriately. Obesity is on the spectrum of being overweight.

It’s All About Body Condition

How do you know if your pet is overweight or obese? Your veterinarian can tell you, of course. But you, as an informed guardian, should be able to evaluate your pet’s body condition. This is one of the most important items in your tool box for keeping your pet healthy. Body condition is much more important than the total number of pounds your pet weighs. It is a reflection of fitness, at least in terms of the amount of muscle and body fat a dog or cat has. Various surveys have shown that 50-60% of dogs and cats are overweight or obese and frankly, I suspect that is a conservative number.

Dogs and cats gain weight and distribute excess body fat in different ways. See the included pictures that review the appearance of dogs and cats. Click the links below.


Body Condition Score Chart for Dogs



Body Condition Score Chart for Cats



Dogs tend to gain weight over the entire torso, with fat cover both over the ribs and around the waist area. This can be seen from the side and from above. Felines distribute excess fat almost exclusively to their lower abdomen, and this is most easily noted by looking at your cat from the side. Dogs should have a tapered waist and you should be able to feel their ribs fairly easily. Cats should have a waist that is horizontal to slightly tucked when looked at from the side.

Because cats have less variation in body size then dogs do, it is fair to say that an average-sized cat should weigh about 10 pounds. There are many petite cats that when fit weigh 7 pounds. With dogs, there are “breed standards” for purebred dogs that describe body size and weight. Use these as a guideline only. Again, body condition according to the included charts is much more important than how many pounds your pet weighs.

But Why Do We Care?

Why do we care if Fluffy is too “fluffy”? There are serious consequences to obesity in dogs and cats. Obese dogs and cats are prone to a variety of medical conditions, such as diabetes or arthritis, for example. These conditions affect your pet’s quality of life, and likely quantity of life as well. One study showed that keeping a dog in lean body condition extended their life span by 15 percent. Fifteen percent is a significant number. And we’re not even discussing other ways (yet) that we can increase both quality and quantity of your dog’s or cat’s life.

Even the FDA is concerned about this issue.

So, for all of us that love dogs and cats as companions, let’s commit to realizing that one of the best ways we can show them love is to focus on optimal health rather than using food as a show of affection.

When a pet is overweight, the bottom line is they are ingesting more calories than they are burning. Weight loss in dogs and cats should be accomplished slowly and steadily by incorporating diet and exercise, making the net daily calorie balance negative. Your veterinarian can create a weight loss program, to make sure it is safe and appropriate for your pet.

Again, I am excited to be able to communicate with all my fellow dog and cat lovers. I see this as a forum for two-way exchange. I welcome any questions or comments you may have that could be incorporated into future articles. What would you like to read about? Please comment below.