Do you know how much your pet weighs? If you don't, you might want to find out.
Keeping your pet at the right weight is as important for them as it is for us. More pets in the UK are now overweight and this can lead to serious health conditions.
Regularly weighing your pet keeps them healthy and it's a relatively simple task you can carry out either at home or at your local vet.
Why do I need to weigh my pet for worming treatments?
Puppies, kittens and younger cats and dogs tend to suffer from worms more than older pets. It’s important to have them wormed as soon as it’s safe to do so.
When being treated, your vet needs to know the correct weight of your pet. Their weight determines their appetite and your vet needs to give them the right medical dosage for the treatment of worms.
Dr Kirsten Ronngren, ManyPets Veterinary surgeon says:
“It’s essential to use parasite prevention for your pet’s correct weight. If you use a treatment made for a weight that’s too low, you risk under-dosing your pet, and the medication won’t be as effective. If you use treatment made for a weight that’s too high, there’s a risk your pet will experience side effects or toxicity.”
Worms are easy to treat and in most cases are not life-threatening but if left untreated, they can lead to more serious health issues. Worming medication comes in different forms that include: Liquid or paste, tablets, or spot-on treatments.
How to weigh your pet at home
If you have a small cat or dog, it’s simple to weigh both of them using bathroom or weighing scales.
If you’re weighing your pet at home you should begin by standing on your scales and make a note of your own weight. This is your first weight.
Step onto the scales again but this time hold your pet with you. This second weight is your total weight. Subtract your first weight, from the total weight, and this should give you your pet's weight.
This technique isn’t always suitable for larger dog breeds and taking them to your local vet to get them weighed more accurately and safely is recommended. If you do feel confident weighing your dog at home, there are scales you can buy, specially designed to weigh animals.
When weighing your pet, try to use the same scales as different ones can vary to some degree. It’s also better to weigh them at the same time of day and preferably on an empty stomach. First thing in the morning before they have breakfast is ideal.
What if my pet is nervous of being weighed?
Some dogs may find being weighed a little scary and may show signs of nervousness and anxiety.
If you’re using your own home scales, and intend to take one measurement of them on the scales, make sure they have a non-slip surface and that it’s stable and clean. Some pups may feel more comfortable if their own blanket is placed on the surface.
Using treats is perfect for gaining their confidence. You can place some treats on and around the scales as this will hopefully bring a positive association with being weighed. Once they’re on the scales, wait for a few moments before giving them another treat.
Don’t pull or drag them onto the scales and always remain calm and positive. Give them a treat to reward them for cooperating with you and some encouragement for next time.
What is the ideal weight for your pet?
Your pet’s ideal weight will depend on their breed, age and sex. Your vet can give you more advice on the typical weight they should be. If your dog is a cross-breed, look at the breed they most resemble; this will give you some idea on what their weight should be.
It’s a fairly simple and quick process to check whether your pet is the correct weight. It involves having a close feel of their body and checking their ribs, spine and tummy.
You should easily feel their ribs and spine under the skin and there will be a little fat covering them. Their body should be well proportioned and when standing straight, there shouldn’t be any ribs showing but some should be showing when they’re curled up.
You won’t feel much fat or muscle around their body but their ribs and spine will feel easy to touch. When they’re standing straight, and viewing them from the side, their ribs will be clearly visible, and their tummy with noticeably be tucked in.
You will have difficulty feeling their ribs and spine because of heavy layers of fat spread around the body. If you stand back and look at them from the side, you may notice their tummy line is flat or sagging downwards.
How often should you weigh your pet?
How often you weigh your pet will depend on their age, current weight and whether or not they have any health issues.
If they’re fit and healthy and within the recommended weight range for their breed, dogs should be weighed once or twice a year. Puppies and dogs that have health conditions should be weighed more frequently.
Cats should be weighed on a more regular basis. Knowing how much they should weigh and making sure they maintain their correct weight is the best way of keeping them in good health.
Symptoms of pet obesity
The British Veterinary Association defines pet obesity as:
“A condition in which excess body fat has developed to the point that the animal’s health is adversely affected.”
If you’re unsure whether your pet is obese, have a look and feel of their body, paying close attention to their ribs, spine and waist. If they’re carrying too much fat, you’ll find it difficult to feel the ribs and the spine. With dogs, you may notice a bigger rounder face, heavy panting, tiredness and an unwillingness to go for walks.
Dr Kirsten says:
“The majority of pets in the UK are unfortunately over their ideal body weight, and obesity is a common problem vets see in the clinic every day. Being overweight puts pets at risk for a number of serious diseases that include:
High blood pressure
Keeping your pet at a healthy weight can significantly prolong their lifespan.”
In 2021, a study from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) revealed that 1 in 14 dogs were recorded by their vets as overweight each year, while the rate of cat obesity is also growing.
The study revealed that some dog breeds are more prone to weight gain than others. They include: Pugs, Beagles, Golden Retrievers and English Springer Spaniels.
Dogs aged between six and nine (middle-age) are at a higher risk of obesity, while the genetics of some breeds gives them a higher appetite. Neutered dogs are also more likely to be overweight. When neutering, always speak with your vet about future diet and exercise plans.
What is the body condition score for pets?
A scoring system has been developed by vets to assess the correct and healthy weight for pets, it’s called the Body Conditions Score (BCS).
It gives your pet a number based on the level of fat on certain parts of their body as well as looking at and feeling the ribs and waist. The score is between one and nine and is similar to the BMI score we use for humans.
BCS 1 - 3 Underweight
BCS 4 - 5 Ideal weight
BCS 6 - 7 Overweight
BCS 8 - 9 Obese and not ideal
How to help your pet lose weight
Overfeeding pets makes them overweight and unhealthy. The easiest and most obvious way to lose weight is by feeding them less and giving them more exercise to burn off calories.
With pet obesity rising, many vets believe it’s because pet parents are not following feeding guidelines correctly. Always carefully check the portions you’re feeding and consider making changes such as using smaller feeding bowls.
Pets should be fed the best quality food you can give them and they should avoid eating food meant for humans. Cheese and bacon are some common culprits so don’t spoil them with tasty treats!
Losing weight means more exercise for our pets. Try adding an extra 10 - 15 minutes to your dog walks or let them run of lead more to stretch their legs.
Cats should spend some period of time outdoors. Keeping them permanently indoors can be bad for their physical and mental health.
Speaking with your vet
You should always discuss your pet’s weight and lifestyle on each visit to your vet. They’re the best people to give weight loss and dietary advice. They will take into account their body condition score, age, breed and activity levels and be able to advise on a suitable diet.
Once you have your pet's weight, you can sign up for the ManyPets Flea, Tick and Worm Plan.