No scale needed: How to tell if your pet is overweight

Experts warn pet food labels can be deceiving


While you're counting calories and getting in extra exercise, you should be doing the same for your pets. According to a survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, more than half of dogs and cats are overweight or obese and just like humans - it'll take a toll on their health.

"Overweight animals also have certain health issues. It can aggravate joint disease. It can lead to type 2 diabetes. It can aggravate heart conditions," warned Dr. Susan Nelson, a Kansas State University Veterinarian.

Many owners may think their dogs and cats look like they're in shape, but Nelson says the majority of pets can stand to lose a few pounds. Here are some easy ways to tell if your pet is a little chunky without putting them on a scale.

  • Feel along their ribs. You should feel only a thin layer of fat, much like when you rub your fingers across the knuckles of your hand when your hand is stretched out.
  • Your furry friend should also have an hourglass figure when viewed from above and a tummy that tucks up, instead of being level.

A good way to manage their weight is to watch how many calories you feed them and remember that just because the bag has certain recommendations, that may not be the best fit for your animal.

"However, in reality our own pets sometimes don't get as much exercise as these research animals do and so they're going to need sometimes substantially less calories," said Nelson.

The amount of calories in one cup of pet food can vary tremendously based on the type and brand. Nelson says to look at the calories per cup on the bag and check with your veterinarian to see how much your animal should be getting.