How Much is Too Much When it Comes to Your Pet’s Weight?
These days, it seems most of us are struggling with our own weight, and we humans aren’t the only ones caught up in the obesity epidemic. Unfortunately, dogs and cats are also in a pudgy predicament. Porky pups and tubby tabbies are more common than ever. In fact, a 2018 study showed that 56% of dogs and 60% of cats in the U.S. were either overweight or obese.1 But what is causing all of this weight gain, and what can we do about it?
Causes of Weight Gain in Pets
There are a number of factors at play…with play being one of them! Or not enough play, as the case may be. The quality and the amount of food we provide for our pets are both important to maintaining a healthy weight, along with regular exercise. It’s a delicate balance that’s definitely achievable when you understand what causes pet weight gain and how to remedy it.
To Treat or Not to Treat
Pet parents know it can be hard to say no when those soulful puppy dog eyes beg for just a bite of your sandwich, and rewarding good behavior with an extra treat just seems like the right thing to do. After all, making our pets happy makes us happy, too! Unfortunately, calories can add up fast in those furry little bodies and what seems like a little to us is actually a lot to them. Also, as our lifestyles have become more sedentary, our pets are following suit.
So, giving your pet healthy treats is great. Make sure he or she is getting plenty of exercise to burn off those extra calories.
Stress, Emotions & Overeating
A study cited in Psychology Today revealed that a pet’s mental and emotional state may contribute to overeating. Stress, anxiety, and time alone can induce habits of “stress eating.” To figure out if changes in your pet’s mood are instigating an overactive appetite, try keeping a journal of your household activities and routines while keeping an eye on your pet’s eating habits. With this information, your veterinarian can better assess why your pet may be gaining weight and will help them to offer appropriate solutions.
Are Some Dog Breeds More Prone to Weight Gain Than Others?
There are some dog breeds that are genetically prone to gaining excess weight. Breeds like Pugs, Dachshunds, Labrador Retrievers, Basset Hounds, Beagles, and English Bulldogs all tend to gain weight more easily. Even active breeds like German Shepherds, Boxers, and Collies may be more prone to obesity than other breeds.
Is Being Overweight Dangerous for Pets
Gaining a pound or two might not seem like much for us, but just one extra pound on a small dog is like 10 extra pounds for a person. As an example for larger dogs who are carrying a few extra pounds, a Golden Retriever that is 7 pounds overweight is the equivalent of an adult female who is 16 pounds overweight.
Pet obesity may take a toll on internal organs like the heart, liver, and kidneys. That extra weight can also put stress on the back and knee joints making walking, running, and jumping difficult. Joint pain, in turn, makes overweight pets less agile and interested in the exercise that will help them slim down.
Just How Much Should My Pet Weigh?
The average adult cat should weigh up to 10lbs. Of course, getting your kitty to sit still on your home bathroom scale may not be easy, so a proper vet visit may be necessary to get an accurate weight measurement.
Healthy weights for dogs can vary quite a bit. Factors that determine an ideal weight for dogs vary based on gender, age, breed and activity level. For a more detailed, customized weight estimation, try using the Healthy Weight Calculator at PetMD.com.
The Simple Pet Weight Check Anyone Can Do
When dogs gain weight, they tend to swell around the sides, along with an increase in hip and neck girth. Cats tend to gain weight in the abdomen, with bulging sides and a hanging belly.
For cats and dogs, the weight evaluation process is similar. When your pet is standing up, simply look straight down on them. There should be a bit of a taper at the waist between the bottom rib and the hind legs.
If you don’t see any “hour-glass” definition here and the waist is actually wider than the ribs your pet is likely overweight. You shouldn’t be able to see your pet’s ribs, but you should be able to feel them as you run your hands along the sides of the torso.
Weight Loss Tips for Cats and Dogs
Keeping pets at a healthy weight should be the goal from an early age since it’s easier to stay fit than it is to lose weight. And just like with people, the older a pet gets the more difficult it is to shed those extra pounds. If you’ve determined that your pet is carrying too much weight, here are a few tips to help them get back into shape.
- Don’t ‘free-feed’ – Keeping a bowl of food full and available at all times can inspire over-eating. Keeping your pet on a regular meal schedule can cut out between-meal snacking.
- Measure food rations – Most pet food bags have detailed instructions on how much to feed your pet based on their weight. However, these are only guidelines. If your pet is overweight, you will need to reduce the amount. It’s best to consult your vet for the ideal amount of pet food for weight loss.
- Increase exercise – Set aside at least 30-40 minutes of daily playtime for cats and dogs. Depending on your pet’s current condition, you may need to gradually increase activity as tolerated. For dogs, long walks in the park and a daily game of Go Fetch can help them lose weight and will also help strengthen your bond and improve emotional wellbeing. For cats, grab a few interactive toys and make time for nightly play, as cats are more active in the early evening hours.
- Cut back on treats – Reward good behavior with kind words and cuddling rather than more calories from too many treats. Only 30 extra calories a day can cause a pet to gain three pounds or so over the course of one year. When you do offer treats, make sure they are wholesome, all-natural, and low-carb in nature.
- Don’t feed pets “people food” – Our food isn’t necessarily good for our pets. Even if they beg, don’t encourage a habit of sharing your food with your pet. Dogs and cats have entirely different nutritional needs than we do, and many foods that are safe for humans can be harmful for our pets.
- Choose the Healthiest Pet Food – Dog food and Cat Food made with real meat, no fillers, and no artificial flavors or colors, like the varieties available at pawTree.com, will provide the nutrients your pet needs and help reduce overeating. When your pet’s nutritional needs are being met, his appetite will decrease naturally.
As most of us know, weight gain can sneak up on you. It’s the same way for our pets! Of course, your kitty doesn’t feel the warning signs of feeling her jeans getting tighter or finding it difficult to bend over to tie her shoes. So, keeping a close eye on our pets’ proportions is important before weight gain gets out of hand. But if your pet seems to be gaining a lot of weight suddenly with no significant change in eating or exercise habits, there may be a medical cause that should be evaluated by your vet.