Does Your Pet Have a Bikini Body?!
Dr. Whitney Wolfgang, DVM
While your pet partner may not need to look great in a bathing suit this summer, there are many reasons to take a good look at your pet’s figure. Pets that are overweight are at a much higher risk of arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, breathing issues, skin issues, heat exhaustion; the list goes on. Most importantly our obese pets have an overall shorter lifespan! Just a few pounds can drastically change your pet’s quality of life.
Many owners ask their veterinarian a great question, “what should my pet weigh?” While I love hearing this question, I will let you in on a secret… there is no magic number! Pets come in all sizes, from Tea Cup Chihuahuas to Great Danes! So what do veterinarians look for in a good body weight?
As a veterinarian, I look at 2 main areas – the ribs and the waist (from the top and the side) – and you can do this at home. The ribs of a dog of ideal body condition should feel like the back side of your hand when you make a fist; go ahead, make a fist, and feel your hand and then feel your pet’s ribs! The waist of a dog in ideal body condition will create a figure eight shape from the top; standing over your pet, you should see a slight curve in as it creates a waist, and curves back out for the hips. If you kneel down and sit at your pets level, you should see a dramatic “tuck” at the end of the ribs. Click on the pictures below and compare them to your pet’s body condition.
Dog Body Condition Scoring
Cat Body Condition Scoring
Even if your pet isn’t going to be a bikini model this summer, take a good look at their weight for a healthy life! If your pet needs to lose a few extra pounds a great place to start is pre-measured meal feedings, rather than free feeding all day long without a limit. Be sure to use an accurate measuring cup. Secondly, replace store bought treats with carrots, green beans, or ice cubes (these treats have ZERO CALORIES!). If your pet really likes treats or is in training, hold an allotted amount of their pre-measured dry food in a “special daily treat jar”. Once those treats are gone, NO MORE TREATS TODAY! If your pet scarfs food down faster than you can pull your hand away, consider using a foraging device for a food delivery method! This gives them some mental stimulation, slows their eating so that they feel full by the end of the meal, and provides you some entertainment; you will probably be amazed at how smart your dog/cat really is!! Finally, you can try to reduce the amount of food you are feeding by 5-10%.
We are always happy to see pets in for a quick weight check (cat owners may consider purchasing a baby scale) that we can add to our records! If you find you are struggling to decrease/maintain your pets weight, talk to your veterinarian about more options!