How to win the battle against pet obesity – A step-by-step plan for success

Pet obesity is a challenging medical condition that reduces life expectancy and leads to other health concerns, such as musculoskeletal conditions and diabetes. Pet owners with obese pets spend more on diabetes treatment than pet parents of normal-weight pets. Fortunately, it is preventable and manageable. This article highlights the details of pet obesity and strategies to maintain a healthy weight.

Pet Obesity: What is it?

  • The accumulation of excess fat in the body is referred to as obesity, and it has serious implications for a pet’s well-being. Body weight and body fat are closely associated, as overweight or obese pets have excess body fat. Pets that weigh 10-30% above their ideal body weight are considered overweight.

If the body weight exceeds 30% of their ideal body weight, this condition is diagnosed as obesity. While there isn’t a universally accepted veterinary definition of pet obesity, being slightly overweight affects a pet’s health and quality of life. Most pet parents do not realize that their pet has an issue, one of the biggest challenges in addressing pet obesity.

Simple Ways to Assess If Your Pet Is Overweight

  • Assessing your pet has weight issue is essential before seeking a veterinary solution. While a veterinary examination is the most reliable method, these easy home-based tips can help you assess your pet’s condition:

Check For A Sagging Stomach

  • Like humans, a sagging stomach is an obvious indicator of excess weight in pets.

Feel Their Ribs

  • Place your hands on the sides of your pet’s chest and try to feel their rib cage. If it’s challenging to feel the ribs, it suggests your pet carries excess fat.

Look For A Defined Waist

  • Pets should exhibit a clear taper between the abdomen and the area where their hips meet the socket. Overweight pets often lack this hourglass shape and appear more oval-shaped.

Observe Their Back

  • An overweight pet may have a broad and flat back, indicating they are too wide on the sides.

While these tips may give you an idea, consulting your veterinarian for a comprehensive assessment is always wise.

Causes Of Weight Gain In Pets

  • Various factors can contribute to weight gain in pets, but the primary cause is an imbalance between energy intake and expenditure. Here are some other reasons why your pet is gaining weight over time:


  • Overfeeding is the most significant contributor to weight gain in pets. High-caloric diets, excess proportions, frequent treats, or feeding table scraps allow them to consume more calories than they can burn.


  • As pets age, their physical activity declines comparatively to when they were younger. In addition, a decrease in activity and exercise can also occur due to conditions like arthritis or other age-related health issues. Moreover, their metabolism naturally slows down with age, causing them to gain extra weight.


  • Hypothyroidism is common in pets where the thyroid gland produces insufficient thyroxine. Thyroxine is a hormone that regulates metabolism. The reduced metabolic rate can lead to weight gain.


  • pet obesityThis condition involves a tumor on the pituitary or adrenal glands, causing an overproduction of hormones, particularly cortisol. Increased cortisol levels can lead to an increased appetite and weight gain.

Raising awareness about the financial implications of obesity and educating pet owners about the significance of proper nutrition, exercise, and regular veterinary check-ups can help prevent obesity-related problems. Discover the effective strategies for maintaining a healthy pet weight in part 2 of this article.

Health Risks Associated With Pet Obesity

Some of the common health risks associated with obesity include:

Diabetes And Insulin Resistance

  • The function of insulin receptors is impaired in obese pets. This results in a lack of sensitivity to insulin and an increased risk for the development of diabetes. In addition, insulin, obesity, and longevity are closely linked. Pets with increased insulin resistance have decreased lifespan.


  • The extra weight puts additional pressure on a pet’s joints, leading to the breakdown of cartilage and the development of arthritis. While pain medications help, effective results can be achieved through weight loss.


  • A clear association between excess weight and the occurrence of high blood pressure has been shown in research.

Respiratory Disease

  • Obesity and excess fat can also alter normal breathing patterns, especially when the fat accumulates along the chest wall. Such pets excessively pant after a short walk.


Research has linked 13 different types of cancers with obesity.

Skin Conditions

  • Additional skin folds in overweight pets can lead to irritation and infection, resulting in redness and scratching.

Strategies To Help Your Pet Maintain A Healthy Weight

Here are some tips to help your pet lose extra weight and maintain a normal body weight.

Regular Exercise

Regular exercise is a great way to lose excess weight. A 30 to 60-minute daily walk is an excellent starting point for dogs to maintain optimum health. For indoor cats, use toys, laser pointers, and cat trees to burn calories and to help them stay active.

Avoid Overfeeding

  • It’s crucial not to give in to their sad eyes or meows when your pets look at you for additional treats. Overfeeding is detrimental to their waistline, just as much as starving them.

Maintain A Nutritious Diet

  • Numerous healthy, low-calorie diet options are available. However, consulting with a veterinarian to determine the best diet for your pet’s condition is essential.

Cut Down On High-Calorie Treats

  • Replace table scraps and calorie-rich treats with healthier alternatives.

Reduce Snacks Between Meals

  • Calorie-rich treats can contribute significantly to increased caloric intake. Limiting them to around 10% of your pet’s caloric intake is crucial. Alternatively, offer small pieces of pet-friendly fruits and veggies.

Set Realistic Goals

  • Work with your veterinarian to set realistic and achievable weight loss goals for your pet. Rapid weight loss is unhealthy; opt for safe and sensible eating and exercise plans instead.

Make Exercise Enjoyable

  • Engage in fun activities together to make exercise pleasurable.

Portion Control

  • Discuss your pet’s dietary needs with your veterinarian and measure their food portions consistently. Avoid free-pouring and opt for a reliable, pet-friendly approach to maintain the recommended caloric intake.

Track and Evaluate

  • Keep a close eye on your pet’s progress and record their weight loss journey. This helps identify effective strategies and make necessary adjustments. Consult with veterinary experts and seek guidance to ensure your pet’s well-being throughout the weight loss.

If your pet is overweight and you are worried about your pet’s condition, don’t wait any longer and consult the vet. At Autumn Trails and Veterinary Center, we provide comprehensive pet care services that keep your pets healthy and comfortable. We offer veterinary services in Charlottesville, VA. Contact us at (434) 971-9800 to book an appointment.