Pet obesity definition:

Obesity is a body weight that is greater than 20% above optimal body weight. A pet is overweight if ribs are difficult to feel under the fat, stomach sags, back is broad and flat and the waist is barely visible or absent. Generally, your pet is at a healthy weight if the ribs are easily felt, stomach doesn’t sag and the waist is easily noted when viewed from above.

  • An Obese Cat – 19 pounds (ideal weight 10 lbs.) is analogous to a 5’4” female adult weighing 276 lbs or a 5’9” male weighing 321 lbs.*
  • An obese Dog – 48 lbs,(ideal weight 20-22 lbs.) is analogous to a 5’4” female adult weighing 317 lbs or a 5’9” male weighing 368 lbs.*

*from The Association for Pet Obesity

How it affects pets:

Just an extra few pounds places an unnecessary burden on your pet’s joints and organs. Overweight pets are also at high risk for: Osteoarthritis, joint injuries, Type 2 Diabetes, Respiratory disorders, Hypertension (high blood pressure), Heart Disease and many forms of Cancer, according to the APOP.


In addition to over-feeding, over-treating and under-exercising, slightly overweight pets are becoming the new ‘normal’. In 2009, the APOP reported that veterinarians noted 44% of their dogs and cats patients were overweight – when just 17% of pet owners would have considered their pets overweight. That means only 40% of overweight pets have owners who, first, recognize there is a problem with their pets’ weight, and can take necessary, life saving measures.

What types of foods do holistic vets recommend?

“I believe dogs, like humans, benefit most from eating a diet consisting of a wide variety of whole, fresh and unprocessed ingredients,” said Dr. Ernie Ward, founder of the APOP. “If our ultimate goal is to prevent disease, what we eat and feed today becomes the foundation of our future. There is no better way to sustain health than by combining an optimal diet with daily aerobic exercise.”

For some dogs, a low-fat food is successful in achieving weight loss. For others, limiting carbohydrate intake while offering higher amounts of protein and fat helps to achieve & maintain a healthy body weight. Cats have no biological need for grains as they are true carnivores and a grain-free diet helps them to maintain optimal lean weight.

Other modalities to consider?

Equally important to managing a pet’s diet is increasing exercise. Provide a variety of enjoyable fun; group dog play, agility, scent tracking, field work or running off-lead in a safe area. For cats, allowing them outside if safe or on a harness allows them to explore. Set aside time for play with your pet every day, using toys that encourage your pet to run and jump.

To find holistic help with pet obesity, see our list of integrative veterinarians and holistic practitioners.

Diets that meet some of the parameters vets suggest for pet obesity include:

  • Low fat and lower calorie: Zeal and Verve
  • Higher protein and fat, low carb:Embark and Love
  • Grain-free and low carbohydrate foods for adult cats: Prowl and Grace

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