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The Low-down on Pet Weight Loss

Black and white large cat

According to the PFMA report on pet obesity, 45% of dogs and 40% of cats are overweight. Whilst more owners seem to be aware of the implications of their pets being overweight than previously, the problem continues to grow.

Being overweight can severely compromise a pet’s quality of life and reduce their lifespan. Overweight pets are more likely to develop certain health issues as a result, including diabetes, joint problems and heart conditions. 

Is my pet overweight?

It can sometimes be difficult to tell where ‘healthy’ becomes ‘plump’, particularly if you’re having to judge through a lot of fluff.

There are three primary ways to judge whether your pet is overweight, according to the principles of body condition scoring. This simple idea is easy to do at home without scales.

Run your hands along your pet’s sides. You should be able to feel their ribs under a light covering of fat. Looking at them from above you should be able to see a distinct waist. From the side you should be able to see where the abdomen ‘tucks’ in to meet the back.

If this isn’t the case for your pet then they may well be overweight.

For a complete visual guide to body condition scoring, please visit here.

If you want your pet to lose weight then here’s our advice on getting started.


A balanced diet is the main element in getting your pet to a healthy weight.

If your pet is seriously overweight, then your vet will probably recommend a diet food. These are designed specifically to provide your pet with all the nutrients they need and help them lose weight. Pets should never be put on a crash diet – it is far better for them to lose weight steadily.

There are a variety of diets on the market that might be suitable – please speak to a member of staff at one of our practices on what they think will be best for your pet.

Portion size is also very important to adhere to – we know that it can be tempting to just top up your pet’s bowl if their meal looks a little on the ‘nouveau cuisine’ side. However, recommended portion sizes have been carefully calculated by the food company to reflect your pet’s nutritional needs.

If you want to give your pet treats, please don’t give them human food of any kind. This is simply not designed for animal consumption and can have a detrimental effect.

We also tend to forget that animal portions are not the same as ours! For instance just a tiny cube of cheese for a cat is the same as us eating two and a half cheeseburgers! Our foods are often high in sugar and salt so are doubly bad for pets.


Exercise is the other important component for keeping your pet at a healthy weight. It can also be important in helping them in terms of behaviour – a bored pet with no way to let off steam and expend their energy is likely to be a destructive pet.

Remember that for pets who aren’t used to lots of regular exercise you’ll have to start slowly, and gradually build up their stamina. Take walks at a regular time so your pet comes to anticipate and expect them. Likewise, introduce regular play time for cats. Our pets are creatures of habit so they will appreciate this structure.

If your dog isn’t keen on walks or has joint problems or arthritis, then hydrotherapy might be a great option for them. Ask your vet if they know of somewhere near to you that might offer these sessions.

You could also consider something like flyball, which is a fun way for your pet to exercise and have fun in a team with other dogs. You can find out more about flyball here.

If you’re a cat owner, you’re probably wondering just how to get your lazy feline to exercise! This is particularly important for indoor cats as they can otherwise become rather idle.

You can normally achieve exercise for your cat through playing. We’d advise laser toys to get your cat moving around. Try also thinking vertically – how can you encourage your cat to get climbing? Cats love being able to get up high so this should inspire them to start exploring.

If your cat is a curious sort then it may be worth trying to walk them on a lead. We wouldn’t advise this if your cat is normally an indoor one, as they are very adept at slipping out of the harnesses!

Hill’s offer some great exercise tips and suggestions here.

Top tips for pet weight loss:

  •     Set reasonable goals and don’t be disheartened by setbacks.
  •     Keep a diet diary so you can document their progress.
  •     Don’t persist with a diet your pet clearly hates – look at other options.
  •     Set yourself a timetable – a routine makes it more likely you’ll keep to a plan.
  •     Elect one person as ‘feeder of the pet’. This should make sure they don’t accidentally get more than one meal! Make sure everyone knows not to give them treats too.

Contact us! Our staff are able to offer you plenty of advice to help and your practice may also offer weight clinics to provide structured support.

Make it a joint resolution – you’ll be far more engaged in helping your pet meet their goals if they’re your goals too.

Is your pet on a diet? Show us how they’re getting on by sending your photos to us at Facebook, Instagram or Twitter!

Posted May 22, 2015 in Pet Care Advice

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