Healthy Weights for Pets

Factors which contribute to a pet’s weight

The two main factors which contribute to a pet’s weight are (1) calories consumed and (2) calories used by the pet’s activities (running, playing, walking, etc.).  If a pet is on average consuming more calories than they are using, then they will gain weight over time.  However, if the pet is using more calories than they are consuming, they will lose weight.  Either of the above scenarios may be appropriate over the short term if the pet needs to gain or lose weight.  If a pet’s weight is ideal, then the goal would be to keep the pet’s current weight.  This is done by finding the “goldilocks” amount of calories consumed daily which matches the pet’s daily caloric needs.

Basic guidelines when evaluating your pet’s weight

For dogs and cats, there should be a tapering of the waistline behind the ribcage when looking from above the pet.  Also the ribs should be able to be felt when applying gentle pressure with the fingertips.  If ribs can be easily felt with little or no pressure applied, the pet is likely underweight.  If the ribs can only be felt when pushing firmly with fingertips, the pet is likely overweight.

Other things to consider when evaluating your pet’s weight

  1. A veterinarian’s evaluation on semiannual or annual exams is a vital part of your pet’s health plan
  2. Every pet’s caloric needs are different.  Amounts of food recommended on pet food bags usually need to be adjusted to find a pet’s proper amount.
  3. In general, pets need fewer calories as they age.
  4. Consistency as well as eliminating any other foods (especially “people food”) is critical in controlling and maintaining your pet’s proper weight.