Pets have offered many of us much needed companionship and comfort over the past year, as we have had to grapple with the new reality of the coronavirus pandemic. Many pet owners have been spending more time at home with their (new) furry family members than usual, and while that can have a positive impact on our mental health, we need to be mindful of our pets’ wellbeing as well.
The risk of gaining excess weight due to overtreating or overfeeding is real, as some veterinarians fear changes in our daily routines due to pandemic restrictions might add to the upward trend in pet obesity. In a recent Banfield Pet Hospital survey, 1 in 3 pet owners interviewed said their pet had gained weight during the early months of the pandemic. Because pet obesity can have such serious consequences on pets’ health and life expectancy, it’s important that owners are equipped with the right tools to prevent and manage this disease.
One of the reasons behind the pet obesity epidemic is a common misconception of what healthy body weight is and looks like. With images and videos of clearly overweight and obese pets becoming increasingly popular on social media, animal health experts have warned against such a dangerous trend by stressing the seriousness of pet obesity - a disease affecting over half of UK and US cats and dogs.
Research has also shown many owners tend to underestimate their pets’ weight.
Here are a few ways you can find out if your pet is at a normal weight:
Simply knowing your pet’s weight is not enough, because it can vary greatly - even within a breed. The pet’s body condition score will tell you if your pet is at the right weight. All you need to do is find out where your cat or dog lands on a 5-point or 9-point scale. You should be able to feel their ribs without applying pressure. The pet should also have an obvious waist – their ribs, however, should not be clearly visible.
Here is how you can check a cat's body condition score:
Here is how you can check a dog's body condition score using the 9-point scale:
Ask your veterinarian what your pet’s ideal weight should be, so you can track any excess gain weight - or weight loss - on a regular basis. Weigh your pet every month and talk to your vet about adjusting their calorie intake and activity levels if needed.
If you just got a puppy, tracking their healthy growth with these charts can help you and your veterinarian predict their ideal adult weight and spot unhealthy growth patterns faster.
Here is how the growth charts work:
Be sure to ask your veterinarian for advice if you’re unsure if your pet needs to gain or lose any excess weight. Regular activity, the right diet for your pet and regular weight checks are key to every pet’s overall wellbeing.