As pet obesity becomes more widespread, it is your duty as a responsible pet owner to recognize the signs and prevent your furry friend from becoming overweight. Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial to your pet’s well-being and overall quality of life. Overweight pets have an increased risk of developing weight-related diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, kidney disease, cancer and more. 

Recognizing whether or not your pet is overweight can be tricky. Your veterinarian can help you distinguish whether or not your pet is an ideal body weight. If it is determined that your pet is overweight, your veterinarian can also discuss an appropriate diet for your pet, including what to feed and mealtime frequency. 

To help you better care for your furry loved one, we’ve developed a quick starter guide in recognizing and preventing pet obesity.

Ideal Body Weight: What does it look like?
Generally, you should be able to feel and count your pets ribs when you run your hands along his sides. When you look down on your pet from above, you should see an hourglass figure. When you view your pet from the side you should see a slight tuck or upward slope of the tummy. 

Food amount: Focus on the calories.
Rather than focusing on how much you should feed your pet, focus on the precise number of calories and nutrients your pet requires on a daily basis. Talk to your veterinarian about how many calories your pet requires and memorize that number. That way, regardless of the brand or type of food your pet is getting, you can determine how much to feed. Don’t forget to include treats in this caloric count. 

Weight-Loss Plans: It’s a gradual process
Pet weight-loss is a gradual process and should not be rushed. Generally, a dog can safely lose 1-3 percent of its body weight in a month and a cat can lose 0.5-2 percent per month. Reducing your pet’s weight by any more than this can be life-threatening. Crash diets are very dangerous for pets and can lead to liver failure in as little as 72 hours. Talk to your veterinarian about a possible step-diet plan that gradually reduces the amount of food your pet gets over a 1 to 3-month period.

Exercise Routine:
Keeping up with your pet’s daily exercise routine is crucial to maintaining a healthy weight. Dogs should receive at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day and cats should strive for at least three 5-minute intense play periods every day.

If you would like information from an Anti-Cruelty Society Behavior Specialist regarding this behavior topic, please call 312-645-8253 or email

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