A large population of pets in the US are overweight. In some cases, obesity is caused by hormonal problems or genetics. Most often however, contributing factors include increasingly sedentary lifestyles, too many snacks and calorie-rich food. Animals who are overweight are more likely to suffer from heart and joint problems, loss of energy, diabetes and some types of cancer among other things. Knowing how to assess your pet's body condition is the first step in maintaining a healthy weight.
Time Required: A minute or two
- Stand over your pet viewing the back. Look for a nice curved indentation in the area of the waist (just behind the rib cage). A pet with a "straight line" from head to tail, or even a bowed-out line along the back, could likely mean that your pet is overweight.
- View your pet from the side. There should be a nice "tuck up" area behind the rib cage and before the hind legs. A pet with a "straight line" or a saggy area in the belly area could likely mean that your pet is overweight. Cats are especially prone to fat collecting in the belly area; areas that are easily viewable from the side.
- Gently run your fingers along your pet's rib cage. The ribs should be felt easily and the skin should glide over the ribs smoothly, as opposed to large "sheets" of fat moving along the ribs.
- View your pet's face. A rounded face or visible folds of skin around the face and under the chin could likely mean that your pet is overweight -- this depends somewhat on breed.
- Check the area above the base of the tail; overweight pets have extra padding and folds in this location.
- Schedule an examination with your pet's veterinarian for a weigh-in and to start working on a safe weight reduction and exercise plan.
- Review images of ideal weight, underweight and overweight animals for reference.
- Participate in the Pet Fitness Poll to get ideas on ways to exercise with your pet.
- Cats who are unable to groom the base of the tail area (as evidenced by mats and dandruff) may have a weight and / or arthritis problem.