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How Can You Tell Your Pet is Overweight?

Is My Pet Fat?

By Amanda Baltazar

Hourglass figures aren’t only for Marilyn Monroe and a goal for women everywhere: Your pet should have an hourglass figure too.

Most pets these days are overweight, even if many of their owners are in denial about it.

“I don’t think pet owners truly appreciate how important it is to have their pet at a healthy weight,” says Ashley Gallagher, DVM, a veterinarian at Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington, DC. “I think people don’t believe me or think I’m exaggerating when I tell them an animal’s obese.”

But pet owners should listen, since being overweight puts your dog or cat at risk of many diseases, not least of them diabetes, cardiovascular disease and arthritis.

And while your vet may diagnose an overweight or obese pet, it’s easy to determine for yourself, too.

Tools to Determine Your Pet's Body Condition

The best way to determine whether a pet is obese is by using a system such as the body condition score, says Dr. Jim Dobies, a veterinarian with South Point Pet Hospital in Charlotte, N.C., and a member of the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association.

Body condition scores can be easily found online, where there are pictures of what your pet looks like and what his ideal body looks like. Most websites give scores of one to five or one to 10, and your pet’s physique should resemble a picture of an animal in the middle numbers.

But you can also assess your pet without them, Dr. Dobies says.

The best way is to stand above pets and look down on them. “You should be able to feel their ribs but not see them. If you can see them, they are too skinny,” Dr. Dobies explains. “If you can’t see their ribs, and place your hands on the side of their chest and still can’t, they’re overweight.”

Both dogs and cats should also have a nice taper at their waist (between the abdomen and where the hips go into the socket), he says. “If there is very little or none at all, they are too heavy and they’ll be oval shaped. They’ll be egg shaped rather than hourglass.”

And a very obese pet, he says, “will have a pendulous abdomen, hip fat, and neck fat, all of which are very noticeable.” But pets don’t usually reach this point of obesity until they’re aged at least seven, he adds.

 
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