Is your pet overweight?

Over the last 25 years we have seen a significant increase in the numbers of obese or overweight pets. This mirrors what has happened in the human population. Like humans, animals become obese for a variety of reasons with the main ones being over eating and lack of exercise. Less commonly it is due to concurrent disease such as joint disease or other medical problems.

Two bulldogs

Obesity in animals causes a similar range of problems to what we see in humans such as joint problems, diabetes mellitus, breathing problems and a shortened life expectancy. An overweight pet is not able to enjoy a normal life which as, good pet owners, we all want to provide. It is often difficult for owners of obese pets to recognise that their pet is overweight and it can be difficult to get that excess weight off. We also recognise the understandable desire of owners to make their pets happy – pets love treats and food and it gives owners great pleasure to see their pets happy. As we all know it is hard to resist those pleading eyes!

We are here to help you in your endeavour to make your pet trim again – we run weight clinics, our scales are free to use (remember to get our staff to record the weight on your pet’s history) and we have special diets to help the weight loss process. At times we will find that there are underlying problems and so may recommend blood tests, X-rays or targeted medical treatments to aid weight loss. Call us for help or contact your own veterinarian.

How did your pet become overweight?

An extremely common comment from owners with obese pets is that they “don’t feed him/her very much”! So why is it that we see so many fat pets these days? There are many reasons why obesity occurs in our pets but it is important to realise that we, as the owners, do have the ultimate control in what and how we feed our pets. These are common reasons:

Individual variation – like humans some animals of the same size need less or more food based on their activity level and genetics. This means you have to use your common sense when deciding how much your pet needs to eat. We are able to help you in assessing your pet’s weight.

Volume of food – most bags of pet food will have recommendations of a certain number of cups or grams to feed a certain sized pet. Unless you use the correct cup size or accurately weigh the volume of food it is easy to overfeed. We have specific cups for the Eukanuba and Iams food to help you feed the recommended amounts.

Pet food package recommendations are guidelines – The guidelines on packaging are meant to be a starting point. If your pet is fat on the recommended feeding schedule, then you should reduce the amount of food or change to a diet that is lighter in Kilojoules (calories). We can help you sort out the best food for your pet.

Genetics – Some animals simply have the genes that predispose them to obesity. Commonly recognised breeds include Golden Retriever, Cocker Spaniel, Dachshund, Beagle, Shetland Sheepdog, Boxer, Cairn Terrier, Basset Hound, Cairn Terrier, and Labrador Retriever.


Other people feeding at home – Children and even elderly relatives and at times neighbours may feed your pet without your knowledge. This can include dropped food and treats or extra meals. Cats are even harder to stop extra feeding as they are likely to roam and pick up food left by neighbours for their own pet. If others are feeding your pet you need to be aware of what they are feeding and reduce other food accordingly. Another source of food in the house is the use of scraps – this can add significantly to the caloric intake and so needs to be taken into account when feeding your pet.

When starting a weight Loss Programme we recommend that you DO NOT feed treats or scraps as it is very hard to ensure the weight reduction programme isworking.

Concurrent Diseases – Occasionally obese pets will have health issues that has caused the obesity. Problems such as heart and lung disease, joint disease or “metabolic” diseases (more correctly termed endocrine disease) such as Hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone) or Hyperadrenocorticism (high cortisone production) can lead to obesity. Such problems not only lead to obesity but make it hard to reduce the weight until the underlying problem is corrected. Once we assess your obese pet we may recommend blood tests or other investigations if we find something that suggests there is another problem.


It is only a little treat!
– An extra source of food are treats. Giving treats give pets and owners pleasure but will add to the daily food intake. These need to be taken into account when working out how much to feed. We have treats such as Eukanuba Healthy Extras that tell you exactly how much calories they contain and this makes it easy to reduce the food given at the meal time. Overweight pets are best given the Low Fat treats.

Desexing – There are many reasons why we recommend desexing of all male and female pets but you do need to realise that desexed animals generally need less food. An additional and often overlooked fact is that pets reach adulthood quickly and hence their food requirements are reduced – but they are often fed as if they were still juveniles. This increases the chance of obesity.

How to tell if your pet overweight?

There are many grading systems used to visually assess weight however there will be individual variations based upon body conformation/genetics and it is important to take into consideration any medical conditions before you start a weight loss program – we have seen animals that owners thought were overweight when the pet had a serious life threatening disease.  Consult your veterinarian for a correct assessment of your pet’s condition first.  Click here for a visual guide to obesity. (reference

How to reduce your pet’s weight

The first step is to have your pet weighed and a check-up performed by your vet to assess for any underlying health issues. At times weight reduction can be achieved by simply reducing the food you currently use and acareful increase in exercise. Many pets, however, need extra help and this is where you can use the expertise of the staff at city Beach Veterinarians.


We run Weight Loss Clinics: our nurses run these and they will recommend a consultation if they note any health issues with your pet. In the Weight Clinics your pet’s weight and dietary needs are assessed. We look at what other pets you may have and discuss strategies to make it easier to feed your obese pet the correct amount. We stock a range of lighter/lower calorie diets designed to make weight reduction easier for you and your pet.  Our staff will recommend the most appropriate diet.

Once your pet starts on a weight reduction programme we generally get you to bring your pet in for regular weight checks every 2 weeks until the ideal weight is reached and then periodically after that to ensure the correct weight is maintained. Weight loss can take a number of months and the diet needs are regularly adjusted based on the progress made. During the weight loss programme we set goals or target weights to ensure the outcome is achievable. Over time the weight goal will be reassessed until your pet becomes trim again.

We will recommend exercise for all obese pets but every pet is different. It is important to not suddenly increase the exercise of obese animals as they may not be able to cope with it and this may be dangerous. We will advise you based on your pet’s physical health.
A little bit of more information of the dangers of obesity

Carrying extra weight puts means extra stress on the joints and backbone. This extra weight can accelerate the arthritic changes and as the animal feels more pain they will generally be increasingly inactive. This extra inactivity will only worsen the obesity. Getting animals back to being trim will mean you will have a more active pet and often they will need reduced or no medications for their arthritis. This is good for you and your pet.

Diabetes Mellitus
Dogs and cats get diabetes mellitus. Obese cats are especially prone to diabetes as it leads to insulin resistance just as it does in humans. Keeping cats trim significantly reduces the risk of obesity and for dogs and cats keeping diabetics trim and healthy makes their diabetic control much easier.

Breathing Problems
Being obese puts more stress on the chest and makes it harder for the pet to breathe. Some conditions such as a collapsing trachea may often be managed just by weight loss. Othe conditions such as heart disease will be easier to control if the best is not obese. An overweight animal will have more issues with overheating in summer and this can be life threatening.

Hepatic Lipidosis
Cats are not designed to deal with a lot of fat – overweight cats have massive amounts of fat in their liver. If an obese cat goes off its food (eg illness, stress) the fat is mobilised and can lead to liver failure. It is often very difficult to save cats with this condition: hepatic lipidosis can turn relatively simple diseases into life threatening conditions.

Reduced Life Span
Lean animals live longer than obese pets.

Increased Surgical and Anaesthetic Risk

Obesity poses an extra risk during anaesthesia and surgery. This is due to marked variation in doses, altered function of the heart and lungs and extra fat that makes surgical approaches more difficult.