Pet obesity

Is my pet obese?

Obesity can be defined as an excess of body fat that is enough to impair health, welfare and quality of life.

Checking if your dog is overweight

To check if your dog is overweight, there are a few simple checks you can do:

  • You should be able to see and feel the outline of your dog's ribs without excess fat covering.
  • You should be able to see and feel your dog's waist and it should be clearly visible when viewed from above.
  • Your dog's belly should be tucked up when viewed from the side.

If your dog does not pass these checks, or if you are in any doubt, consult your vet.  They will be able to provide a health check and if necessary recommend a weight reduction programme.

Checking if your cat is overweight

Check to see if your cat is overweight using the steps below:

  • You should be able to see and feel your cats ribs, spine and hip bones.
  • Your cats waist should be clearly visible when viewed from above.
  • Your cats belly shouldn't be sagging underneath, there should only be a small amount of belly fat.

If your cat doesn't pass these checks speak to your vet who will be able to provide a health check and if necessary recommend a weight-loss programme to help them get back into tip-top condition.

Why does it matter if my pet is overweight?

We believe obesity is a serious welfare issue in pets because it can cause suffering and can be extremely disabling. It's also likely to affect your pet's ability to perform natural behaviours (e.g. exercise normally).

Pet obesity can also cause serious health problems, and make existing problems worse, which can reduce the length and quality of your pet's life. Conditions such as:

  • diabetes
    Obese Jack Russell terrier lying on weighing scales © RSPCA Photolibrary
  • heart disease
  • respiratory distress
  • high blood pressure
  • cancers

To help your pet keep a healthy weight, download a Pet Size-O-Meter from PFMA.

Are certain pets more likely to be obese?

Several factors make obesity more likely in pets. E.g. for dogs:

  • Breed - certain breeds have a higher risk.
  • Age - the risk increases with age.
  • Neuter status - neutered dogs are more at risk.
  • Sex - apart from older dogs, obesity is reported to be more common in females.
  • Owner - obese owners may be more likely to have obese dogs, perhaps because they are less likely to exercise their dog, or less able to recognise obesity.

Similar factors may also be associated with other animals.

Preventing obesity

Obesity can affect all types of pet, and the main cause is from eating too much or not exercising enough, although some diseases can cause obesity.

To help prevent obesity in your pet ensure they maintain a healthy diet and receive plenty of exercise. If you're concerned about your pets weight contact your local vet. 

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