The Ultimate Guide To Pet Obesity: How to Recognize the Signs of Overweight Pets and What You Can Do About It!

If you have a pet, you know that they are a loved member of the family. But did you know that Pet obesity is a problem that is growing in popularity? The problem is that too many pets are getting overweight and this can have serious consequences for their health. In this article, we are going to discuss the signs of Pet obesity and what you can do about it. We will also provide tips on how to promote a healthy weight for your pet and help them stay fit.

A recent survey indicated that 40% of America’s pet population is overweight. If you or your veterinarian feel that your pet would benefit from a reduction in body weight, this discussion should help you achieve your objectives.                 

An overweight pet…Very simply put, if your pet is overweight it is taking in (eating) more calories than it needs. Set all excuses aside … excessive weight in an otherwise healthy pet is a direct result of consuming unnecessary amounts of food. If your pet is overweight it should be examined for heart, thyroid or other metabolic disorders. A detailed history should be taken with emphasis on frequency of exercise, amount and type of food being provided and other parameters relative to calorie requirements

Sign of Pet Obesity

Look for fat deposits over the spine and at the base of your pet’s tail, as well as around their neck and limbs, for obvious visual symptoms. In healthy dogs and cats, the usual waist and abdominal ‘tuck’ will also be missing.

Lack of grooming: Most animals, especially cats and dogs, keep themselves clean, so if your pet isn’t grooming itself as often as it used to – especially if it can’t reach specific areas owing to its size – that could be a warning sign.

Not to be mistaken with a sleepy animal, this can include a lack of desire – or even an incapacity – to jump, go for walks, play games, climb stairs, or use the doggy door. Unfortunately, this has been demonstrated to have an impact on the human-animal link that exists between pet owners and their animals.
Breathing problems: Constant panting, even if your pet isn’t moving, is a red flag, as is heavy, forced breathing from even the most mundane activity.
The scales are not deceiving: You’ll be able to detect whether your pet is at a healthy weight right away, whether you’re weighing them at home or at the vet’s office. Make sure you know your pet’s ideal weight and keep track of it.

To begin let us set the record straight on some common misconceptions regarding pet obesity. Healthy dogs and cats do not need to eat every day; the pet food industry has painted the picture for us of the “eager eater.” The impression is that a happy, healthy pet will eat every meal with gusto. Please do not try to entice your pet to eat if it isn’t interested. If you provide a good quality food and a liberal amount of water, your pet will eat when it wants and do better than having to eat when you want. See the pet nutrition section.

Another common myth maintains that spaying or neutering causes obesity. This is absolutely false. Any pet, neutered or not, will gain weight if it is over fed relative to its energy requirements.The surgical procedure may slightly slow the pet’s metabolism, as will normal aging, and it will then burn calories off more slowly; therefore it may require less food. Keep in mind the surgery doesn’t cause the weight gain, eating too much does and you have control over that.

The following discussion pertains to DOGS ONLY.  Because of metabolic idiosyncrasies that are different from the dogs’,  putting a cat on a reducing diet should never be done without the close supervision of a veterinarian.  Cats are prone to developing a dangerous condition called Hepatic Lipidosis if their caloric intake is suddenly restricted. We will post a CATS ONLY weight loss discussion in the future.

Let us explore four typical settings we veterinarians encounter when presented with a pet  that is overweight. See if any of these sound familiar! The quotes are the usual responses pet owners give us when we politely suggest that “perhaps your pet would benefit by losing some weight”…

Four Typical Settings-Pet Overweight


 “But doctor, she hardly eats a thing.” (My first thought is that whatever she is eating, it is too much!) This pet probably has food out for it all day and nibbles a little at a time. When dinner time comes and the pet picks at the left-overs, it will take the choicest morsels, leave the rest, and still appear not to have eaten very much. However over a 24 hour period “THE NIBBLER’S” total calorie intake is excessive and it gains weight. Hardly eats a thing, eh?


 “But doctor, this rascal won’t keep quiet unless she gets her treats. And she won’t go to sleep at night until she gets her little dish of ice cream.”What has happened here is that the pet has discovered that the more noise and fussing it produces the more likely it is to be rewarded for this behavior. The owner finally “gives in” to keep the pet quiet and the pet sees the food as a reward. In effect the owner is training “The Beggar” by rewarding its behavior. It turns into a fun game but the pet’s health may suffer if obesity is the result.


“But doctor, she’s such a good dog we don’t want her to go hungry.”
    This pet became overweight because the owner’s signal of affection for their pet has focused on feeding. (Usually each family member secretly offers treats to the pet…and doesn’t know the other family members are doing exactly the same thing!)   It is an understandable trait but unfortunately for the pet it can be a case of too much of a good thing. The owners’ method of showing affection should be directed more toward physical activity than feeding. Think “FETCH” not “FOOD”!


 “But doctor, she just refuses to eat dog food.”
    In this case the pet has trained its owners to feed it such things as chicken, liver, ice cream, cookies, etc. Although most table scraps are just fine to feed, (stay away from bones of any kind!)  this pet has been given a choice of what it wants to eat and has chosen certain people food. If a child is given a choice it would probably choose cake and candy over vegetables, and its health would suffer. This Gourmet Dog usually overeats because it isn’t getting a proper balance of  nutrition, plus everything tastes so good there is a reward factor in eating.  The solution is . . . you choose, not your pet.

Pet Obesity- What To Do About An Overweight Dog

First of all remember that research has shown a healthy dog can abstain from food for five days before any noticeable effects occur. They generally don’t HAVE to eat every day.  (Very small breeds may be an exception…but unless there’s really some medical problem present missing a day of eating isn’t a major catastrophe.) Always be sure fresh water is available. So start out by feeding a very high quality, complete and balanced dog food.  Look on the ingredients list…MEAT should be the first item listed, not corn.  You may also want to supplement with an inexpensive  vitamin/mineral product and any human supplement will do.  Just don’t get in to large doses.

Now record an accurate pre-diet weight. Reduce by one-third your pet’s total daily ration previously given. Include in this total all treats, snacks, or left-overs if you insist on continuing to provide these. Reweigh the pet in 2 weeks. (Remember if the pet begs for food, that’s a good sign! But don’t give in. Read again if you have to about Type II)

If you find upon weighing your pet after two weeks that it has lost even a little weight, you’re on the right track; keep up this schedule!  If no weight loss is evident, again reduce by one-third the amount being fed. Weigh the pet again in two weeks. Depending upon the results either keep feeding this amount or reduce again by one-third the total amount being fed. If you persist a good outcome is certain. Many veterinarians believe you should not feed the “Reduced Calorie” or “Lite Diets” or “Senior Diets”!    These diets have very restricted fat levels to reduce the calories but by necessity have increased the carbohydrate percentages.  This increased carbohydrate stimulates additional Insulin secretion which tells the body to store unused calories as fat!  There are a multitude of overweight dogs that have actually gained weight on those “Reduced Calorie” weight loss diets.  Your dog needs a meat-based diet, high in protein (which isn’t stored as fat) and fat and low in carbohydrate.  Now… YOU have to adjust the quantity being fed to achieve a state where the dog takes in fewer total calories than it is using for the day’s energy requirements.  Simple!

It is also quite important to get everyone’s cooperation in restricting the pet’s intake. There is usually someone in the household who feels sorry for the dieting pet and surreptitiously provides “just a little” something extra. More helpful would it be for the person to take the pet for a walk or a run to burn off a few calories.

Keep in mind most overweight pets have a slow metabolism. They simply don’t burn off those calories very fast and in fact don’t generally have “eager eater” appetites. Because of this slow metabolism, though, they don’t require very much; so “just a little extra”   will make a big difference over a period of time.

Remember…high quality,  meat-based food, control the amount fed, provide more exercise, and be persistent.  Help your pet live a longer, leaner and more enjoyable life.

Dog obesity is a growing problem that needs to be addressed. In this blog, we will outline the signs of overweight dogs and what you can do to help them. By following these simple tips, you can help reduce the number of overweight pets in your life and make their lives healthier and happier. So, what are you waiting for? Let us know in the comments how this blog has helped you!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is pet obesity important?

Maintaining a healthy weight, nutrition, and lifestyle is vital for your pet’s overall health and quality of life, just as it is for you. Overweight pets have a lower activity level and a shorter lifespan, as well as an increased risk of numerous common ailments, such as osteoarthritis.

How can we prevent pet obesity?

Obesity is primarily caused by overeating or insufficient exercise, though various conditions can also contribute to obesity. Make sure your pet eats a balanced diet and gets plenty of exercise to help them avoid obesity. Contact your local veterinarian if you’re concerned about your pet’s weight.

Why is obesity a problem in dogs?

“Excess fat has a negative impact on the health and longevity of dogs.” Obese dogs are more susceptible to a variety of cancers, diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. osteoarthritis and accelerated joint degeneration.

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