“When pets become overweight, it places them at greater risk for heart disease, respiratory problems, diabetes and more,” writes Natalie Asaro. Pictured here is overweight cat, Jasper, on Nov. 28, 2019 when he was up for adoption at the Chilliwack SPCA. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

Animal obesity: Tips for tackling weight issues in pets

Leading up to National Pet Obesity Day, B.C. animal nutritionist offers weight check-in for pets

By Natalie Asaro, MSc, Companion Animal Nutritionist, Petcurean

Many pets in North America are overweight or obese.

In fact, more than half of all the adult dogs seen at the 1,000-plus Banfield Pet Hospital locations nationwide were considered overweight or obese, according to the hospital’s 2020 Veterinary Emerging Topics (VET) report.

When pets become overweight, it places them at greater risk for heart disease, respiratory problems, diabetes and more. This is why it is important to manage your pet’s weight to keep them happy, healthy and thriving.

October is Pet Wellness Month and Wednesday, Oct. 14 is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day, which is a great reminder to stop and think about what we can do to help our pets maintain a healthy weight. Whether they are overweight, underweight or at the optimal weight, there’s a lot we can do to help them live long and healthy lives.

To figure out if your pet is a healthy weight, look for a proportioned, slightly hourglass body shape when viewed from above, a slight tummy tuck and a thin covering of body fat over the ribs and spine. When running your hands along their body, you should be able to feel the ribs and hips without pressing hard. If you’re not sure, you can use a body score chart like this one for dogs, or this one for cats.

RELATED: Wanda, a severely overweight cat, sheds 10 pounds with help from B.C. vet

If they need to drop a few pounds, here’s what you need to do:

Step 1: Determine your pet’s current weight

Your vet can be a great resource in getting started. In addition to weighing your pet, they can check to make sure that there are no underlying health issues at play.

But if you’re not able to see your vet right now, you can also get started at home. Simply weigh yourself on your bathroom scale. Then pick up your pet and weigh again. Subtract the difference to determine your pet’s weight.

Step 2: Increase exercise and play time

Activity and exercise are some of the biggest factors to address if your pet is overweight. It’s entirely possible you’re feeding your them correctly, but just not providing enough exercise.

Start the process of weight loss by adding an extra block to your regular walking route and a few more minutes of fetch in the yard. If you have an indoor cat, you can also invest in some new toys or a scratching post help them get more active. But whatever you do, it’s important to ramp things up gradually to avoid undue strain.

Step 3: Determine the correct amount to feed

If your pet only needs to lose a little weight, you can stick with their current food and reduce the amount you are feeding slightly. Rather than measuring the amount of food by volume, we recommend weighing your pet’s food using a kitchen scale. If more needs to be lost, you may want to consider a lower fat food to reduce calories while still keeping your pet satisfied.

You can also replace unhealthy treats with something from your fridge, like a carrot for dogs or piece of chicken for your cat.

Ideally, your pet’s food should be weighed, not measured by volume. Weighing is more accurate and allows you to monitor exactly how much you are feeding. It’s also a good idea to schedule a regular meal-time with your pet, rather than leaving their food out all day.

Step 4: Monitor progress

After a week, weigh your pet as described above. After a few weeks, you should start seeing progress. A one- to two-per cent body weight loss per week should be your goal. Anything more than this can be harmful to your pet. Ensure you conduct weigh-ins each week to help you stay on track.

If too much or too little has been lost during the previous week, adjust the amount of food again until a slow and steady weight loss is achieved. You can also build in more exercise gradually.

Continue adjusting food intake and weighing your pet each week until they reach an ideal body weight. It is also a good idea to use a journal or an app to keep track. The small weight loss changes from week to week can be hard to remember.

Step 5 – Don’t return to bad habits

Once your pet has reached their optimal weight, it’s important to maintain the healthy behaviours that got them there. Pets that have been overweight once are more likely to become overweight again.

Be sure to avoid returning to the old bad habits of too little exercise and too much food. Resist the urge to feed table scraps and stick with low calorie treats.

So, why not take a few minutes this October to do a weight check in with your pet? By making a few small changes, working together and keeping track, you will not only manage your pet’s weight in the short term, you can also ensure cuddles and companionship for many years to come.

About the author:

Natalie Asaro received both her BSc in Honours Biological Science and MSc in Companion Animal Nutrition from the University of Guelph. Her MSc research focused on investigating energy and macronutrient metabolism in cats, resulting in multiple published peer-reviewed papers. Her passion lies in pet food formulation and keeping up to date with research in pet nutrition. She is currently a Companion Animal Nutritionist at Petcurean, a Canadian premium pet food manufacturer.

RELATED: Chilliwack pet food producer offers six essential pet safety tips

Pets

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares to swab a man at a walk-in COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal North, Sunday, May 10, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)
Interior Health records 21 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

Thirty-six cases remain active; two people are in the hospital, one of whom is in intensive care

Siblings Ash Patterson and Kaimarra Patterson (left) take to the skies with Ursula Hart on Oct. 1. (Photo submitted)
Youth take to the skies with 100 Mile Flying Club

The grand Junior Kids Fly Day was grounded, but students still got a chance to get up in the air.

A bed table donated to 100 Mile District General Hospital Palliative Care Society in fond memory of Deka Lake’s Ruth Allan. (Diana Forster photo)
Bed table donated in memory of Deka’s Ruth Allan

Deka Lake column by Diana Forster

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Prohibited driver from Surrey apprehended after getting stuck in shallow swamp

The suspect went on to assault several officers during booking inflicting minor injuries

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry answers questions during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. sees record-breaking daily COVID infections with 499 new cases over weekend

Two people, both in the Lower Mainland, died due to the virus over the weekend

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

A B.C. man decided to create a website to help people find family doctors accepting patients. Because Victoria is considered high-demand, clinic openings can’t be posted publicly. (Unsplash)
Vancouver Island man starts website that connects B.C. residents with doctors

Nanaimo man started project to help people find family physicians accepting patients

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Most Read