In the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention’s (APOP) annual survey results, veterinarians classified 33.8 percent of cats and 18.9 percent of dogs as obese in 2018. They identified 36.9 percent of cats and 25.6 percent of dogs as overweight. In the 2017 clinical survey, 56 percent of dogs and 60 percent of cats were classified as overweight or obese.

Weight Management is one of the key’s to having a healthy pet.  But what is a pet’s healthy weight?  The problem is that we pet owners don’t always recognize our pet’s have gained some weight. A recent study found that veterinarians considered 47 percent of their patients to be overweight, yet only 17 percent of the owners agreed.

As many of you know, we need to put our dog Foster on a diet this spring.  Being a very good customer service associate (and world class big eyed beggar!) he put on a few extra pounds and we needed to get his weigh down by about 5 lbs. Being already on a fresh raw diet we were able to make adjustments by curtailing his daily treat rations and within a couple of months he was back to a healthy weight again.

Weight Check:

Here’s how you can easily tell if your pet is over (or under) weight. 

Your pet’s ribs and shoulder blades should be easily felt.  Rub your hand over the back of your other hand, this is how your pet’s ribs and shoulder blades should feel.

Look at your pet from above, do you see a waist line starting right behind his ribs?

When you look at your dog from the side, do you see a nice tucked up waist or is it missing?

Based on your own observations, you might need to help your pet lose those extra pounds.  This is appropriate for both dogs and cats.

We need to take our pet’s weight very seriously. If you’re a 10lb dog and you’re a 1lb overweight, that’s 10% of your body weight.  That’s the equivalent of a 180lb man being 18lbs overweight!  Studies have shown that lean, trim dogs live up to four years longer and the onset of arthritis and other signs of aging are delayed.

The Diet:

If you need to start your pet on a weight loss program, don’t worry, you’re not alone and we’ve all been there.  The key is exercise, the proper nutrition and treats, portion control and a schedule.  Your goal should be reducing your pet’s weight slowly, shooting for a 3-5% weight loss each month.


Most dogs will do best on a high quality protein, low carbohydrate diet with a moderate amount of fat. High quality fiber, from pumpkin for instance, can help your pet feel a little fuller but this complex carbohydrate will burn more slowly in the body.

Cats, being obligate carnivores, need a diet rich in protein and no (or very little) fruits and  vegetables.  Moving toward a raw or canned (e.g. wet) food diet for  your cat is very important but essential when working through a weight loss program. See more information below for cats.

Here’s some great information to help you understand how many calories your dog or cat really need.  Most pet food manufacturers have the calorie information either on their bags or on their websites.

Your pet will be more satisfied from the high quality protein and the moderate fat rather than the higher fiber content.  You also want to look for diets that have a low glycemic index.  Diets that are high in starches, including some grain-free diets, raise the blood sugar level in  your pet and that creates increased inflammation in their body.

Avoid free feeding your pet and watch your portion control.  Measure your pet’s food out and break up the meals into two or even three portions over the course of the day rather than keeping their food out all day.  This will also help your pet’s digestive system and overall weight loss program.

Raw Diets:

The ideal for both dogs and cats is a fresh, raw diet.  This high quality protein, grain-free diet is great at getting to the appropriate weight and staying there.  They have a low glycemic index with their reduced starches due to the fact a raw diet doesn’t need the binders that an extruded kibble diet requires. Your pet takes what nutrients they need from the diet to maintain their appropriate weight.  For more information on feeding a raw fresh food diet see our page on Raw Foods on our website.

An easy way to feed a bit less kibble and incorporate more raw foods into the diet is using any of our freeze dried raw food formulas as a kibble topper (or even as treats!).  They’ll get all of the benefits of feeding raw as well as be more satisfied with the reduced portions.

The good news is that you’ll be feeding less on a high quality protein, low carbohydrate diet!  Portion control is very important so you should make sure you measure out your pet’s food at each meal rather than just estimating.  You’ll be amazed at how much they should be eating rather than how much you think they need.  Always go slowly when you’re adjusting the diet, particularly as you move toward a higher protein diet.

Cats and Diet:

Cats should always be on a grain-free high protein diet with a combination of both dry and wet foods.  They are obligate carnivores and have really no ability to process grains.  They need the wet food to ensure they’re getting the appropriate levels of intracellular moisture in their diet to flush out waste keep them appropriately hydrated.

Treats:

Limit the treats and always include them when you’re calculating the total day’s food.  Stick with high quality protein-based treats or raw vegetables  (for your dog) as they will be very satisfying for your pet and will be consistent with their overall diet plan. Stay away from high calorie treats like raw hides, cheese and peanut butter.  They’re very high fat and calorie dense.

Weigh your pet each week and adjust your feeding accordingly.  Make sure everyone in the family is aware of the feeding and treating schedule.  Consistency is the key.

Exercise:

Increased exercise is also beneficial.  A good long walk or game or two of fetch does wonders for your pet’s overall health and well-being (and your own!).  Cat’s require about 20 minutes of play a day.  Cat wands are perfect to get them jumping and playing.  Of course, you need to stay within the abilities of your pet, especially our seniors!

Maintaining your pet’s weight is the greatest gift you can give them.  It can be a long process but with dedication you can avoid costly expenses down the road plus have a happy and healthy pet.

For more information on Pet Obesity Prevention click here!