Your Veterinarian; Your Best Advocate in Your Pet's Weight-Loss Program!

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention reports that an estimated 54% of dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese. The association goes on to report that American pet owners may be shortening the lives of dogs and cats by overfeeding and not insuring consistent exercise habits. The good news is that pet owners can do something about it through planning and commitment – and in partnership with your veterinarian.
  • Your Vet is your partner in a 'healthy' weight loss program. Understanding your dog or cat’s ideal weight and how to get there is your veterinarian’s job. Veterinarians are not just there for emergencies, but should be your dog or cat’s dentist, psychologist, nutritionist, pharmacist and weight loss manager all in one. They are there to support you in helping you bring out the best in your pet.
When speaking with your veterinarian about developing a weight loss plan for your dog or cat, you’ll want to discuss realistic goals, both short and long-term. Discuss with your vet how much weight is safe to lose and within what time frame. Generally, dogs and cats should not lose more than ½ to 1 pound per week.

Important questions to ask your veterinarian:
  • What should I feed my dog or cat?
  • How much should I feed?
  • How much food should I cut back per meal? 5%, 10%, 20%?
  • Should my dog or cat eat two meals a day or several smaller meals?
  • Is a high-fiber diet an option for my dog or cat?
Your pet’s doctor will consider your dog or cat’s age, breed, physical condition and how active he or she is. It is important to be completely honest with your veterinarian and confide in them regarding your pet’s exact eating habits, sleeping habits and exercise routine. Remember, pet obesity is epidemic and the doctor sees overweight and obese pets every day. Their role is not to judge, but partner with you to develop a realistic weight loss plan based on accurate information about your dog or cat.

A Body Condition Score (BCS) assessment will be conducted by your vet. The BCS is similar to the human Body Mass Index (BMI) score.Your veterinarian will conduct a visual and physical examination of your pet, looking for fatty deposits and making note of the profile and other telltale signs of obesity or excess weight gain.
Body Condition Scores (BCS) are commonly based on a 5 to 10-point scoring system. The higher the score, the more weight your dog or cat may need to lose.

Below is the Royal Canin 9-point scoring system for dogs to give you an idea of the BCS assessment.

1-3 Too Thin

1. Ribs, lumbar vertebrae, and pelvic bones and all bony prominences evident from a distance. No discernible body fat. Obvious loss of muscle mass.

2. Ribs, lumbar vertebrae, and pelvic bones easily visible. No palpable fat. Some evidence of other bony prominence. Minimal loss of muscle mass.

3. Ribs easily palpated and may be visible with no palpable fat. Tops of lumber vertebrae visible. Pelvic bones becoming prominent. Obvious waist.

4-5 Ideal Body Weight


4. Ribs easily palpable, with minimal fat covering. Waist easily noted viewed from above. Abdominal tuck evident.

5. Ribs palpable without excess fat covering. Waist observed behind ribs when viewed from above. Abdomen tucked up when viewed.

6 Ideal Body Weight-Ribs palpable with slight excess fat covering. Waist is discernible when viewed from above but is not prominent. Abdominal tuck apparent.


7-9 Too Heavy

7. Ribs palpable with difficulty. Heavy fat cover. Noticeable fat deposits over lumbar area and base of tail. Waist absent or barely visible. Abdominal tuck may be absent.

8. Ribs not palpable under very heavy fat cover or palpable only with significant pressure. Heavy fat deposits over lumbar area and base of tail. Waist absent. No abdominal tuck. Obvious abdominal distension may be present.

9. Massive fat deposits over thorax, spine, and base of tail. Waist and abdominal tuck absent. Fat deposits on neck and limbs. Obvious abdominal distension.

The most important thing you can do to help your dog or cat lose weight in a healthy and sustainable manner is to meet with your veterinarian and follow their instructions to the letter.

Tips to Take Away
  • See your veterinarian before starting any weight-loss program to clear your pet of any potential health impacting conditions.
  • Work with your veterinarian to complete and accurate and current Body Condition Score.
  • Follow your veterinarian’s weight-loss program directions closely including any changes to diet and exercise.