Posts Tagged ‘weight’

How Can I Tell If My Pet’s Overweight?

It can be hard, we know! However, our vets and nurses can weigh your pet and assess their body condition score (BCS) which is a method of categorising weight, ranging from 1 (very thin) to 5 (obese), with 3 being normal and healthy. You can also do some checks at home:

  • Look from above. Your pet should go in a little at the waist. If not, they may be overweight.
  • Feeling along the side of the chest, you should be able to feel the ribs. They should not be under a thick layer of fat, but they should also not be sticking out.
  • Feeling along the back of your pet, the spine and hip bones should not be sticking out but should be easy to feel.
  • Look and feel underneath your pet for any bulges.

It’s estimated that around 60% of dogs and 39-52% of cats in the UK are overweight or obese. A report by Royal Canin found 80% of dog owners stated their pet was an ideal weight, but 40% knew neither their pet’s weight nor body condition score. 74% of cat owners believed their cat was an ideal weight, but nearly two thirds (65%) acknowledged not knowing their cat’s current weight and/or body condition score.

Does it matter if my pet is overweight?

Pets who are a healthy weight are more likely to enjoy a happy and healthy life. Here are some reasons why:

  • Older pets often suffer from degenerative joint disease (arthritis). Being overweight can speed the progression of arthritis and the pain caused, ultimately reducing the quality and quantity of their life. Simple mechanics mean a dog weighing 20 kg that should weigh 15kg will place 33% more force through each limb. Even a small weight reduction can make a huge difference to their quality of life.
  • Being overweight increases the chance of diabetes in dogs and cats. Diabetes shortens life, can come with complications, and usually requires lifelong insulin injections. This poses a significant time and financial commitment for owners.
  • Obesity is not known to increase the risk of coronary heart disease as in people, but it does have adverse effects on cardiac and pulmonary function and blood pressure.
  • Operations are more risky for all pets that are overweight.
  • Rabbits naturally eat a part of their faeces known as caecotrophs, which helps recycle enzymes enabling them to digest roughage. If they are overweight, they will not be able to groom or to reach their bottom to eat these caecotrophs.
  • Obese or overweight cats are more at risk of hepatic lipidosis and lower urinary tract disease, both of which can be very serious or even fatal.

What can I do?

We can check your pet’s body condition score and weight, and perform an examination looking for other health issues, especially ones that may be weight related.

We can recommend a regime to help your pet lose weight, but it is important not to lose weight too rapidly. We aim for no more than 1-2% of their starting weight each week.

If they are only slightly overweight then feeding a bit less, or changing to a lower-calorie food may be all that’s needed. Pets needing more drastic weight loss may need a special diet, as reducing their food too much may mean they go hungry or with insufficient nutrients. A food diary for a week may highlight where your pet is getting extra calories. Each weight loss plan we suggest is individual and would involve exercise as part of the weight loss regime, but here are some general points:

  • Good pet food companies produce food for varying life-stages, as a developing pup, for example, will have different needs to an ageing dog.
  • Take the nutritional information of your current food along to your appointment and our team can assess if it’s appropriate for your pet.
  • Feeding a complete commercial pet food is the easiest way to ensure your pet gets the nutrients they need. Use feeding guidelines and weigh the food out. It seems obvious, but pets that eat too much get fat.
  • Treats and scraps on top of a complete food will unbalance the diet and most likely be turned into fat.
  • Pet lifestyle makes a difference. In the same way, an elite athlete will need more calories than an office-worker, a working greyhound or sheepdog will need more calories than a sedentary dog.
  • If considering a diet change, do it slowly to avoid upsetting the gut.


  • Prefer regular mealtimes. Ideally, split your dog’s daily food into two equal-sized meals, meaning your dog will be less hungry and eat more slowly. It may also help them sleep and make it less tempting to treat.


  • Are obligate carnivores, meaning they cannot survive without meat. They cannot produce an amino acid called taurine (a protein building block) which can only be found in meat. Without it, they can develop a severe heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy and even blindness. Their gut is not designed to digest a plant-based diet, just like a cow’s gut is not designed for a meat-based diet.
  • Prefer to graze, eating 8-16 times daily, so have food available all the time weighing out the daily quota. Most cats are very good at self-regulating but some are greedy, and with these cats, meals may be needed.
  • That drink milk often gets tummy upsets due to the lactose.

Rabbits should:

  • Eat around 50% of the time so they need at least their body size in good quality hay per day to keep boredom at bay, to keep their gut health and to keep their continually growing teeth worn down.
  • Have a handful of fresh vegetables, morning and evening. They love carrots, but as they are high in sugar, use them sparingly.
  • Have an eggcup of commercial rabbit nuggets (NOT muesli-type mix) once a day if under 3.5kg, or twice a day if larger. If fed too many nuggets, they may eat less hay and veg which are both vital for rabbit health.

How can a vet nurse help my pet lose weight?

Is your pet a little podgy? Perhaps you’re well aware but frustrated that your efforts to slim them down are having little effect. Perhaps you don’t even know where to begin. Fear not, help is at hand! You might be surprised at the assistance our team can offer you, and not least, the invaluable support you can find in our veterinary nurses. There is surprisingly little known by the general public about the extent of a veterinary nurse’s training and capabilities.  Vet nurses have a great deal of (sometimes all too hidden) expertise, from monitoring anaesthesia and taking X-rays to laboratory work and advising pet owners on a whole host of pet care topics. Our nurses are passionate and knowledgeable individuals who love nothing more than to build a working relationship with you, to keep your pet healthy. For all the knowledge and support you need to make your pet’s health-kick a success, look no further.

Vet nurses undergo a substantial amount of theoretical schooling to gain their qualification and are therefore able to discuss the impact that obesity can have on your pet. From the associated risks of diabetes, to the exacerbation of joint disease, they will do so in an honest and fact-based manner but with empathy and from a non-critical viewpoint. By seeking advice, you’ve taken the first of many steps along the road to improving your pet’s quality of life. As such, our vet nurses are eager to take an interest and help you.

History taking

Importantly, our nurses will listen to you. They want to hear all about how your pet got to be overweight. They will consider any concurrent health conditions (referring you to our veterinary surgeons as necessary) as well as food and treat intake and their usual amount of exercise. They will listen without judgement and aim to ask such questions that will best arm them with all the information required to help you and your pet.

Safe and sustainable

It is no good crash dieting a pet and worse, it can be really very dangerous to do so. Slowly but surely is the best approach to ensure safe weight loss that stays off. Nurses know this, and they also know important, fundamental dietary requirements of a range of species. They know what can and can’t be cut out of a diet and in what proportions. They even have specific calculations to help them determine the required calorie intake for an individual as well as those that calculate a safe rate of weight loss, to ensure it is not achieved too quickly.

Intake versus output

No fad-diets will be recommended here, just a balance of good nutrients and exercise. Our nurses are equipped to understand what individual factors might be hindering progress. From the old, arthritic dog, for whom exercise intolerance and obesity can be a vicious cycle, to the indoor-only cat who looks to their owner as their main source of entertainment – you’ll be amazed at the tricks up our nurses’ sleeves. And guess what, dieting doesn’t have to mean that treats are off the menu altogether! They can advise you on these too. Our nurses will talk to you about the merits of purpose-designed commercially available foods that are designed to make your pet feel full whilst keeping calorie intake low, or help you achieve your pet’s ideal weight on whichever diet you feel most comfortable using.

Access to further expertise

Our nurses have a range of resources to refer to; from their fellow vet nurses and our vets, to veterinary nutritionists who can advise of the finer points of certain foods available to put together a workable solution for your pet.  Nurses are forever keeping current with the latest nutritional developments and nuggets of advice from the wider industry too. They have a professional requirement to complete a minimum number of learning hours every year in order to stay registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. This helps them keep their knowledge and skills at the forefront of veterinary science.

Moral support

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons to involve a vet nurse in your pet’s weight loss programme is for the unwavering support you will receive. When your dog gives you those puppy-dog eyes, we all know how hard it can be not to feed them scraps from the table! Our nurses are like-minded, pet-loving people who can empathise with you whilst maintaining the much needed momentum that you need. They will want to meet with you and your pet regularly, weighing your pet, assessing body condition and generally providing the guidance and encourage required to succeed.

Don’t struggle alone. Whether you know there’s an issue with your pet’s weight, or even if you’re just unsure, contact our team for some friendly advice.