What is Pet Obesity?

Veterinarians are noting an alarming increase in the number of overweight or obese adult dogs that they see in their practices. Your pet being at a healthy weight is a factor that will hugely affect your pet’s quality of life.

A study conducted by the RVC (Royal Veterinary College) has determined that 1 in 14 dogs is recorded as being overweight by their vets each year.

Many pet owners struggle to see that their pet is carrying excess weight. It is important to know what the ideal shape for your pet is and be able to recognize when they are outside these parameters. We’ve created a Paws in the City guide to help you to determine whether or not your pet is currently at a healthy weight.

Pet Obesity Paws in the City guide

Underweight – your pet’s ribs, pelvic bones, and spine are clearly visible, with a clear lack of body fat and muscle mass.

Ideal weight – You should be able to visibly see and also feel the outline of your dog’s ribs, and be able to see and feel their waist clearly from above. Their belly should be tucked up when viewed from the side, and not rounded or the same size as their chest.

Overweight – Carrying excess fat around their stomach, which appears rounded when viewed side on. No visible waist when looked at from above.

Your vet can assign your pet a body condition score based on the system below:

1 – Emaciated

2 – Underweight and very thing

3 – Underweight with visible ribs and pelvic bones

4/5 – Ideal weight

6 – Overweight by 10-15%

7 – Obese + 20-30%

8 – Obese + 30-45%

9 – Obese  + 45% or more

What are the causes of pet obesity?

There are a number of factors that may make your pet more likely to become obese. Many people assume that diet or lack of exercise are the only influences over a pet’s weight. However, the following also play a role in the risk of your pet facing obesity:

  • Your pet’s breed
  • Age – as your pet gets older they become more at risk
  • Whether they have been neutered – neutered pets are more at risk
  • Sex – According to the RSCPA, obesity has been reported to be more common in female pets
  • The pet owner’s weight – if the pet owner is obese and exercises less, then they are less likely to exercise their pet sufficiently

What are the dangers of pet obesity?

If your pet is overweight, they are at increased risk of certain health problems and are likely to have a decreased life expectancy.

Not only is the weight itself a problem, but it could also be an indicator of a more serious underlying condition that is causing these changes in your pet’s body.

If your pet is at an unhealthy weight, they are at a greater risk of developing conditions such as:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancers
  • Heart disease
  • Respiratory distress

An overweight pet is also much more likely to suffer from heat stroke in high temperatures. In hot weather, or when walking your dog, make sure you offer them cool, shaded areas.

How to prevent pet obesity

our pet’s weight can be adjusted and controlled through their diet and their exercise. If you are changing your pet’s diet, you should always consult your vet. Our vets at Paws in the City can help to recommend the right diet suitable for your pet based on their breed, age, sex, and activity level.

How can I help my pet lose weight?

Dogs and cats who have a high percentage of body fat are likely to need a strict diet and potentially an exercise regime to help them achieve an ideal weight. Your vet can recommend a restricted diet and an increase in exercise to help your pet achieve its weight loss goals.  

How can I help my overweight pet?

During the dieting process, you may need to make some accommodations to make their life a bit easier. The weight loss process may take some time as healthy weight loss tends to be gradual, so here are some changes that you can make to help minimize the challenges that your pet will face.


At a normal weight, healthy cats are able to groom themselves. If your cat is overweight, it may find it difficult to reach certain areas for grooming. You can help them by brushing their coat regularly until they are able to do it by themselves again.

Your pet may have more wrinkles or folds in its skin due to weight changes. You should pay extra attention to these folds when grooming as they can collect dirt, and cause irritation or inflammation.

You may also need to have their anal glands expressed more often. When your pet is overweight, they may suffer from swollen or blocked glands which your vet may need to empty to keep them comfortable.


The extra weight on your pet’s joints could lead to arthritis if ignored. The additional weight may be causing strain on their joints and so your vet can recommend suitable exercises to begin the weight loss process. It is unreasonable to expect an overweight, sedentary pet to go straight into high-impact or high-energy exercises such as running or jumping. We recommend starting with slow-paced walking to avoid over-exerting your pet and causing injury. Low-impact exercise such as swimming can be highly beneficial to overweight pets’ joints, as it is considered a supportive treatment.

Having a ramp for things such as getting out of the car, getting up and down from furniture, and climbing stairs may be made it easier by using a ramp. Your pet might find it difficult to physically maneuver to climb stairs, and these types of movements will put great pressure on your pet’s joints.

If you’re not sure whether or not your pet is at an appropriate weight for their breed and age, please contact us at Paws in the City so that our vet can conduct a health check for your pet and advise you on the best diet or exercise regime that is suitable for your pet to follow.

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