“When pets become overweight, it places them at greater risk for heart disease, respiratory problems, diabetes and more,” writes Natalie Asaro. Pictured here is overweight cat, Jasper, on Nov. 28, 2019 when he was up for adoption at the Chilliwack SPCA. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

“When pets become overweight, it places them at greater risk for heart disease, respiratory problems, diabetes and more,” writes Natalie Asaro. Pictured here is overweight cat, Jasper, on Nov. 28, 2019 when he was up for adoption at the Chilliwack SPCA. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

Animal obesity: Tips for tackling weight issues in pets

Leading up to National Pet Obesity Day, B.C. animal nutritionist offers weight check-in for pets

By Natalie Asaro, MSc, Companion Animal Nutritionist, Petcurean

Many pets in North America are overweight or obese.

In fact, more than half of all the adult dogs seen at the 1,000-plus Banfield Pet Hospital locations nationwide were considered overweight or obese, according to the hospital’s 2020 Veterinary Emerging Topics (VET) report.

When pets become overweight, it places them at greater risk for heart disease, respiratory problems, diabetes and more. This is why it is important to manage your pet’s weight to keep them happy, healthy and thriving.

October is Pet Wellness Month and Wednesday, Oct. 14 is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day, which is a great reminder to stop and think about what we can do to help our pets maintain a healthy weight. Whether they are overweight, underweight or at the optimal weight, there’s a lot we can do to help them live long and healthy lives.

To figure out if your pet is a healthy weight, look for a proportioned, slightly hourglass body shape when viewed from above, a slight tummy tuck and a thin covering of body fat over the ribs and spine. When running your hands along their body, you should be able to feel the ribs and hips without pressing hard. If you’re not sure, you can use a body score chart like this one for dogs, or this one for cats.

RELATED: Wanda, a severely overweight cat, sheds 10 pounds with help from B.C. vet

If they need to drop a few pounds, here’s what you need to do:

Step 1: Determine your pet’s current weight

Your vet can be a great resource in getting started. In addition to weighing your pet, they can check to make sure that there are no underlying health issues at play.

But if you’re not able to see your vet right now, you can also get started at home. Simply weigh yourself on your bathroom scale. Then pick up your pet and weigh again. Subtract the difference to determine your pet’s weight.

Step 2: Increase exercise and play time

Activity and exercise are some of the biggest factors to address if your pet is overweight. It’s entirely possible you’re feeding your them correctly, but just not providing enough exercise.

Start the process of weight loss by adding an extra block to your regular walking route and a few more minutes of fetch in the yard. If you have an indoor cat, you can also invest in some new toys or a scratching post help them get more active. But whatever you do, it’s important to ramp things up gradually to avoid undue strain.

Step 3: Determine the correct amount to feed

If your pet only needs to lose a little weight, you can stick with their current food and reduce the amount you are feeding slightly. Rather than measuring the amount of food by volume, we recommend weighing your pet’s food using a kitchen scale. If more needs to be lost, you may want to consider a lower fat food to reduce calories while still keeping your pet satisfied.

You can also replace unhealthy treats with something from your fridge, like a carrot for dogs or piece of chicken for your cat.

Ideally, your pet’s food should be weighed, not measured by volume. Weighing is more accurate and allows you to monitor exactly how much you are feeding. It’s also a good idea to schedule a regular meal-time with your pet, rather than leaving their food out all day.

Step 4: Monitor progress

After a week, weigh your pet as described above. After a few weeks, you should start seeing progress. A one- to two-per cent body weight loss per week should be your goal. Anything more than this can be harmful to your pet. Ensure you conduct weigh-ins each week to help you stay on track.

If too much or too little has been lost during the previous week, adjust the amount of food again until a slow and steady weight loss is achieved. You can also build in more exercise gradually.

Continue adjusting food intake and weighing your pet each week until they reach an ideal body weight. It is also a good idea to use a journal or an app to keep track. The small weight loss changes from week to week can be hard to remember.

Step 5 – Don’t return to bad habits

Once your pet has reached their optimal weight, it’s important to maintain the healthy behaviours that got them there. Pets that have been overweight once are more likely to become overweight again.

Be sure to avoid returning to the old bad habits of too little exercise and too much food. Resist the urge to feed table scraps and stick with low calorie treats.

So, why not take a few minutes this October to do a weight check in with your pet? By making a few small changes, working together and keeping track, you will not only manage your pet’s weight in the short term, you can also ensure cuddles and companionship for many years to come.

About the author:

Natalie Asaro received both her BSc in Honours Biological Science and MSc in Companion Animal Nutrition from the University of Guelph. Her MSc research focused on investigating energy and macronutrient metabolism in cats, resulting in multiple published peer-reviewed papers. Her passion lies in pet food formulation and keeping up to date with research in pet nutrition. She is currently a Companion Animal Nutritionist at Petcurean, a Canadian premium pet food manufacturer.

RELATED: Chilliwack pet food producer offers six essential pet safety tips

Pets

Just Posted

Sierra Acton, regional district director for Shawnigan Lake. (file photo)
New parkland in Shawnigan creating connections

Used to created parking for the popular Masons Beach Park

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Chris Wilkinson
Chris Wilkinson column: This could be the worst thing done to you during the pandemic

As a result, all of us will contend with more ‘scarcity’ thinking and mindset.

The Crofton trailer park home where the bodies of two people were found. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Mom still waiting for answers after daughter and her fiance found dead in Crofton

Pair discovered dead in their Crofton home in May identified as Rachel Gardner and Paul Jenkins

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

A blood drive in support of 1-year-old Rielynn Gormley of Agassiz is scheduled for Monday, June 28 at Tzeachten First Nation Community Hall in Chilliwack. Rielynn lives with type 3 von Willebrand disease, which makes it difficult for her to stop bleeding. (Screenshot/Canadian Blood Services)
Upcoming blood drive in honour of Fraser Valley toddler with rare blood condition

The Gormley family has organized a blood drive in Chilliwack on June 28

Most Read