Is Your Pet Overweight? Exercise and Eating Tips for Dogs and Cats

Enjoying a day at the beach

My sons dog playing at the beach

Diane Peck

Is your pet overweight? Pets have the same tendency to gain weight (and consequences) that humans do. Here are some simple tricks to incorporate better health into your pet’s life.

Is Your Pet Overweight?

  • First, place the palm of your hand on the side of your pet's rib cage and press gently.
  • If you feel your pet's ribs with this amount of pressure, it probably weighs the right amount.
  • If you have to push harder to feel the ribs, your pet is overweight.

It’s best to address the extra weight as soon as possible, as overweight dogs and cats may be more susceptible to diabetes—which may lead to more medical complications, expense for the owner, and discomfort for the pet.


  • It's essential to set a strict diet. The type of food is important, as well as the amount served each day. Only serve a set amount daily, based on your pet's weight and type. Consult with your vet. S/he can tell you what kind of food to get, as well as how much the particular pet should be getting, initially for safe weight loss (too little food can also cause complications) and then how much to maintain the ideal weight.
  • For overweight pets, consider low-calorie food. Also, don’t leave food out all day for pets to snack on. There are several types of low-calorie foods available at pet supply stores and at the vets. Get suggestions from the vet as to what type of food is best for one’s own pet, as health issues vary, and it can also depend on age.
  • If you’re introducing a new diet to your pet, do it gradually. Begin by mixing one part of the new food with three parts old food at each meal. After a few days mix to equal amounts of new and old food. Next, do three parts new food, one part old food.
  • Table scraps are infamous for packing on unwanted pounds. Pet’s regular meals should be designed to give them all the calories they need; the extra snacks at your kitchen table aren’t necessary.
  • If you give your pet a regular treat, however, switch to a tasty, health alternative. For example, many dogs like crunchy raw vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, and green beans. (If digestion is an issue, ice-cubes are crunchy and can act as a treat as well.)


  • For dogs, start slow and work your way up to a faster pace or longer distance so your pet can build endurance. Always provide plenty of water before and after a walk. Dogs can’t cool off by sweating because they don’t have the glands, so it’s important, especially in the heat, to keep them hydrated. An ideal route for you and your pup is one where you can walk on a path or sidewalk and the dog can walk on grass. Different breeds of dogs are more disposed to be active. Small dogs and toy breeds won’t be able to keep up; where as any medium to large breed can be conditioned for walking.
  • For cats, it's also important to exercise a bit. Older cats naturally tend to sleep more, which reduces the amount of play time, and can lead to obesity. Or, if a young cat likes to snack a lot, the same symptoms occur—they become more lethargic and don’t exercise off the extra calories. Try to set aside some time to interact with the cat, and gradually introduce more play time. Get him/her interested in playing. Find some toy that s/he especially likes—balls, sticks with felt strips on the end, cat “fishing poles” with a bit of rag on the end, or the toys that have a ball that rolls in a circular track that the cat can bat.
  • Remember, when starting a diet or exercise plan of any sort, it’s always a good idea to contact your vet.

Reader Comments

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So, I have a dilemma. We have

So, I have a dilemma. We have two pups, one is an australian shephard/boxer mix and we have a black lab/pitbull mix. The lab mix is much bigger than the other dog and thus eats a lot more. He gets fed twice a day and the aus ends up eating twice a day by default. She is getting overweight. Any tips to help sort that out? I wish I could just give her a diet supplement like this: haha

These are great tips on diet

These are great tips on diet and exercise for our pets. I never knew that there was a very easy trick to see if your pet is overweight. It sound simple enough for anyone to figure out.



    There are many reasons why people find themselves unable to leave a slot game that has been paying out pretty decently for a while. After all, why should you stop when you are so far ahead? Why should you, if you are in a brick and mortar casino, get up and allow someone else to collect winnings that could be yours? Why should you risk going to another machine only to find that it isn't doing as well for you as the one you are on? These are the questions that many online slot game players using as well as brick and mortar casino players ask themselves each and every time they play. The answers the aforementioned questions are not as complicated to understand as many may think; nor does it take someone who is knowledgeable in psychology to explain it. All of these questions can be answered simply; it is necessary. Yes, it is necessary to leave a game that is paying out well and try something else. The reasons why it is necessary are numerous and to the new player they may not make any sense but once you understand then you will get it but it won't ease the fact that leaving the game is one of the hardest things you will ever do.

I don't agree with the

I don't agree with the article on stopping wet food because of animal being over weight.A diet of dry kibble is not healthy.There are numerous articles online about the dangers of feeding dry kibble alone.Dogs and cats need to be fed biologically appropriate food which contains moisture they need.Please look up holistic vets online and make a decision what is best for your animal.Agree that portion control is a must.

Thank you for bringing that

Thank you for bringing that to our attention; we have revised the article. We believe that if one has an overweight pet, it's best to talk to one's vet to develop a plan tailored specifically to the pet's needs, which will vary depending on the pet's health, allergies, age, breed, habits, etc. For example, wet food provides water that some pets may not be as inclined to obtain via their water bowl etc. (but still always leave a bowl of water out for them as well--wet food is not a replacement for a bowl of water). For some other pets, as long as they are healthy, they can get along fine with just dry food, no wet food, because they are in the habit of drinking plenty of water from their water bowl. Certain dry foods may not be appropriate for weight loss, while others are designed specifically for that, with balanced nutrition. Wet food also comes in more caloric or diet formulas. Pay attention to quality ingredients, no matter which type of food is chosen.

Have a beautiful bluetick

Have a beautiful bluetick coon hound, who was just fine, until we got her spayed. Almost immediately after the surgery she gained a lot of weight. She is now appox.30-40 lbs. over her ideal weight. She has always loved to eat, I mean more than my other dogs, even b4 surgery. I try to exercise her as often as possible. She tolerates activity, but gives out quickly.I think she could use some hormones, she is not nearly as active and playful as b4 surgery. But, vet says he doubts the need for hormones. However, no testing was done.Anyone out there have or had a dog who has taken hormones? Did it help them? My Sally Blue(her name) needs some help. Please give us advice.Thx!

My cat Ali is over weight and

My cat Ali is over weight and sleeps a lot. Any suggestions he is a Norwegian Forest Cat the breed is normally large, but he is a little past that.

Hi Wyllow, Based on your

Hi Wyllow, Based on your comment, we have added more cat information in the article above. See the tips on exercise for cats as well as low-calorie food for cats. One of our editors adds, "I have a fat cat myself, and he is either partly Maine coon or Norwegian forest, so he is naturally large-framed—but also portly. This link is to a food that I feed my cat:

If you have a decent size

If you have a decent size yard check into an invisible fence. Got friends with an acre yard who installed one. Her dogs can run around freely now. Also, if your dog is up for it, try teaching him/her to play Frisbee or catch with a ball. That way the dog gets exercise without wearing you out as much. Friends are currently caring for a puppy whose owner had surgery. That puppy will chase the Frisbee tell she drops. Now, if she would only learn to bring it back to me:-)

My little MinPin is obese.

My little MinPin is obese.:sad: Yes he has been getting table scraps. My Vet says NO MORE SCRAPS!:angry: I started walking him and to be quite honest, he wears me out!:tired: I am 115 and in good shape and am glad when he stops running. I tried him on my treadmill and need someone to hold the treat in front while I walk with him, he is way too quick to tie the treat up front. He's as fast as lightening and out races the treadmill and grabs the treat!
:crazy: Now, he became a toy to a Rotti a week ago, actually he jumped the Rotti and got shook like a rag doll!:cry: His spine was badly out of align and he cannot wear a collar or halter, any restraint, but still wants to go for his walk, He's gotten alot better though.:) If I let him run loose, I cannot keep up and he gets away. We live in the outback of northern AZ and the coyotes may get him running loose. He cannot be trusted to be loose,ever! Any suggestions?

lakotalady, please it's not

lakotalady, please it's not MINPIN place to be trusted they are our babies! all dogs just want to run for awhile, but they don't know the dangers that are out there. My Schnauzer Riley is 10 yoa my Pom is 3 yoa they never go out w/o leash. Maybe u could find a chiropractor school or office that would adjust MINPIN before the spine sets. My neice had a black 1 that was hit by car 2x. they live on busy hwy. they never learn about putting them in back fence. 3 purebreed dogs have been run over at their home. Everytime I visit & play with their new pets I feel they will be killed. Coyotes are near me too. I wish u luck give MINPIN a kiss!