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How Do I Know if my Dog or Cat is at a Healthy Weight? | Veterinary Advice

This is a great question! In 2018, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimated that 60% of cats and 56% of dogs are overweight or obese. We need to do better! Keeping our pets at a healthy weight is one of the best ways to prevent conditions like osteoarthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. Your veterinarian will use the terms “body condition” and “body condition score” to evaluate your pet’s weight and muscle mass. A body condition score (BCS) is similar to a BMI for humans. Assessing a healthy BCS can be more complicated than you think, especially in our furry pets with thick coats!

General Guidelines

Worried your dog or cat may be overweight? As starting points, when viewing from above, you should be able to visualize your pet’s “waist,” where the chest narrows into his or her abdomen. Additionally, you should be able to feel your cat or dog’s ribs without too much pressure. Finally, you should note an “abdominal tuck” when viewing your pet from the side.

On a scale of 5, an ideal BCS is a 3. On a scale of 9, dogs should be at a 4 or 5, while cats should be about a 5. See below for further details on appropriate scoring, and consult with your veterinarian to learn about your pet’s BCS.

What if my pet needs to lose weight?

The basics of weight loss for your pet are similar to the principles for humans: exercise and healthy eating are the most important factors! Daily walks, runs, or active games are ideal for helping dogs and cats struggling with obesity to trim down. We recommend following the 10% rule, which says that treats should make up no more than 10% of your pet’s caloric intake. If weight loss is indicated, try decreasing the amount of treats first, or replacing them with healthy veggies. Carrots, green beans, watermelon, and bananas are great options. Some of these are even better frozen!

Help Your Pet Stay on Track with BetterVet

If your dog or cat is already dealing with obesity or you just want to ensure they stay at their optimal weight, we can assist with that. Your BetterVet veterinarian will be happy to help you develop a weight loss plan for your pet, including weigh-ins and tracking.