The obesity epidemic in dogs and cats is still with us, even though most of us now realize that overweight animals are at higher risk of health problems. Why is this the case, and what can you do if your own dog or cat is on the heavy side?
If your dog or cat is overweight, it’s cause for concern, although you’re far from alone. In 2018 (the most recent year for which data was collected), an estimated 60% of cats and 56% of dogs in the US were overweight or obese. Since the pet obesity epidemic has been trending upward for several years, we can assume those numbers are the same or even worse now. This article looks at why the obesity epidemic is still in full swing (see sidebar below), and provides helpful suggestions for getting plump pets down to a healthier weight.
How to tell if your dog or cat is overweight
Because so many animals are overweight now, many people can no longer tell the difference between a fat, chubby, and normal dog or cat. If you’re not sure about your own animal, look down at his body from above as he’s standing or walking. Does he have a tapered-in waist? If not — if he’s shaped more like an oval or rectangle — he’s probably too heavy. You should also be able to feel (but not see) his ribs, as well as the bones near the base of his tail. If he’s obese, you’ll see obvious amounts of excess fat on his abdomen, hips, and neck.
Compare your dog or cat to the body condition charts provided by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) at https://wsava.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Body-Condition-Score-Dog.pdf or https://wsava.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Cat-Body-Condition-Scoring-2017.pdf . The goal is a body condition score of 4 to 5 for dogs, and 5 for cats.