Your pets health is almost of utmost importance. Unfortunately, pet obesity is very much a problem; according to Vet Innovations, a whopping 100 million pets in the United States alone are overweight or obese. In this blog post, we’ll explore why maintaining a healthy weight for your pet is important, and how you can make sure they’re eating the proper amount.

Note: We are not veterinarians, and we strongly recommend reaching out to your animal’s vet about their health and dietary needs.


Risks Associated with Pet Obesity

Being overweight doesn’t only mean your pet is a larger size; there are many common obesity-related conditions suffered by overweight dogs and cats:


  • Arthritis
  • Bladder/urinary tract disease
  • Liver disease
  • Low thyroid hormone production
  • Torn knee ligaments
  • Diabetes
  • Diseased disc in spine
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Heart failure
  • High blood pressure


  • Bladder/urinary tract disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Asthma
  • Liver disease
  • Arthritis
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart failure
  • Gall bladder disorder
  • Immobility of spine

This list sounds scary, but don’t feel bad if you aren’t sure whether your pet is overeating. Most people don’t purposely overfeed their pets – they’re just unsure what an appropriate meal size looks like. This is where we can help you figure out if your pet is overweight and what to do about it!

Is Your Pet Overweight?

First thing’s first: it’s time to determine if your pet is overweight. Below you will find two pet condition charts (one for cats, one for dogs). These charts help guide you through visual cues about their shape and size. This can sometimes work better than scale numbers since pets come in all different heights and bone structures (just like humans!). You may also click here for a list of ideal pet weight ranges. This is only a guideline, and if you are concerned about your pet’s weight, please talk with your vet to get more information.

How to Maintain a Healthy Size

Calorie Count

Nutrition labels are for more than just humans! First, you need to figure out how many calories your pet needs. Caloric needs vary by animal and breed, so be sure to figure out how many calories your specific pet requires per day. Click here to view a chart showing cat and dog daily caloric needs.

Meal Feeding vs. Free Feeding

Next, let’s make a plan to ensure that not only is your pet eating the right amount of food, but that there is a way for you to tell how much they are actually eating. We have found that the key to managing a pet’s food intake is to move away from “free feeding” and toward “meal feeding.”

Simply put, free feeding is continuously making food available to your pet. Free feeding often leads to overeating, even in so-called “grazers.” Leaving a full bowl out at all times makes it difficult for you to know how much your pet is eating, or if they’ve stopped eating normally or altogether – which is a common first warning sign of illness.  Free feeding can stress some pets out (they feel the need to protect this constant source of food), and can enable one pet to eat too much and leave too little food for others..

On the other hand, meal feeding is when you feed your pet portioned meals at set times during the day. Again, the amount you feed your pet is dependent on their breed, size, age, and other factors, so be sure to do your research first to determine your pet’s target caloric intake. In general, Canidae suggests that cats require 3-4 small meals a day, while dogs are OK with 2 meals per day. Benefits of meal feeding include:

  • More control over your pet’s diet
  • Ability to monitor eating habits
  • Human/pet bonding
  • A diet with more variety is easier to provide

Expected Weight Loss

According to Pet Obesity Prevention,

In general terms, a dog can safely lose 1 to 3-percent of its body weight and cats 0.5 to 2-percent per month. Many dogs can lose 3 to 5-percent and most cats should aim for about a half-pound per month. Losing weight isn’t easy or fast for pets, especially cats. If you put your pet on a “crash diet,” they can develop serious medical conditions, including a life-threatening form of liver failure that can occur in less than 72 hours. Patience is essential with pet weight loss. Most of my canine patients will have a 3 to 6-month weight loss plan and cats 6 to 12-months. Your veterinarian will probably formulate a step-weight loss plan that will gradually decrease the amount you’re feeding over a 1 to 3-month period. This will help curtail cravings, begging, and late-night pestering. Note I said “help,” not “eliminate.” There will be some unhappy pooches and purr babies when you institute a diet. Your veterinarian should provide you with tips on preventing these behaviors and transitioning to a new weight-loss diet.”

How We Feed Our Cats

At Karma Cat + Zen Dog Rescue Society, we’re proud to report that we engage in meal feeding! To encourage our pets to exercise, our volunteers play with them regularly, and we even have a Petcube set up so you can play with the kitties from your own home (or on the go).


Looking for more tips on how to take the very best care of your pet? Visit our other Resources page!

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