What it Really Means if your Pet is Overweight

Over a third of pets are overweight. Our pets don’t have to hunt for their food, and mindless snacking is easy when food is available all the time. Exercise, especially in the winter months, is in short supply. Not enough dogs get the opportunity for regular long walks or off leash romps with friends in the park which they need.

Cats lounge expertly, and need time and motivation to engage in hunting behaviors with a laser mouse or feather toy (moving their eyes while watching us doesn’t burn many calories). Many of us human caregivers show our love through food.


Obesity leads to increased risk of painful arthritis and orthopedic injuries, cancer, breathing problems, skin issues, and diabetes among other maladies.


Grooming challenges are common- I frequently see fat cats with matted fur and dandruff past their missing waists, and sometimes worse things crusted around their hind ends, because reaching around and cleaning that far is too hard! Chunky dogs develop moist skin folds that are predisposed to infection. Studies in many species show that obesity leads to a shorter lifespan. 

Cats and dogs should tuck in at the waist, and the ribs should be easily felt but not seen in most breeds. Losing excess weight and fat in pets means increasing calorie output (exercise) while decreasing calories taken in.

Pet foods have quite variable calorie counts, and each individual pet has different caloric needs depending on activity level, age, breed, and other factors. Cats can become very ill with fatty liver disease if they are forced to lose weight too quickly.

Your veterinarian can help you determine if your pet is overweight, help determine the goal weight, and give you guidance on type and amount of food to feed for a longer and healthier life!


Dr. Astrid Kruse graduated from Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in 2003. After completing a year long rotating small animal medicine and surgery internship, she joined the staff at a large general practice hospital on the North Shore, where she enjoyed forming long term connections with her patients and clients. She is excited to join the team at Domino Veterinary Hospital in Concord, MA! Her special interests include dog and cat internal medicine, preventative health care, rabbit and guinea pig medicine, soft tissue surgery, and dentistry in all species.