Do you know how much your pet weighs? If you don't, it's time to find out!
Studies show that over 50% of dogs and cats in the US are now overweight, and this can lead to serious health conditions.
Regularly weighing your pet—and their portions of food, for that matter—helps you keep them healthier for longer.
For a large or extra-large breed dog, it's probably easier just to visit your vet for a weigh-in. If you need to weigh them frequently, consider investing in a scale just for them.
But if you have a cat or dog that's a manageable size you can easily hold in your arms, you can try weighing them at home. Here's how (and why it's important).
The Best Way to Weigh a Dog or Cat at Home
We’ve broken down the process of weighing your dog or cat at home into three easy steps. You’ll need your bathroom scale, a paper notepad or your phone's notepad, and your pet (of course).
Stand on the scales yourself and note down your own weight. This will be your first weight.
Hold your pet and step on the scales once more. This is your second weight.
Subtract your first weight from your second weight; this will leave you with your pet’s weight.
Two tips for the greatest accuracy:
When weighing your pet, try to use the same scales, as different ones can vary to some degree.
Weigh them at the same time of day, preferably on an empty stomach. First thing in the morning, before they have breakfast, is ideal.
Again, be safe! Don't attempt to lug your Malamute on the scale to test your strength; just go to the vet. Your back (and your Malamute) will thank us later.
What if My Pet is Scared of the Scale?
Some dogs and cats may find being weighed a little scary and may show signs of nervousness and anxiety.
Make the Scale Feel Safe
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 they're stable and clean. Some pups and kittens may feel more comfortable if their own blanket is placed on the surface.
Use (Healthy) Treats
Using healthy, low-calorie treats is perfect for gaining your pet's confidence. You can place some treats on and around the scales, as this will hopefully create a positive association with being weighed. Once they’re on the scales, wait for a few moments before giving them another treat.
Keep Things Positive
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 give them some encouragement for next time.
How Much Should My Dog or Cat Weigh?
Your pet’s ideal weight will depend on their breed, age, and sex. Your vet can give you more advice on what their typical weight should be.
If your dog is a mixed breed, look at the breed they most resemble; this will give you some idea of what their weight should be.
For cats, it can once again vary according to the breed. Very generally, most domestic cats clock in at around 10 pounds as their ideal weight. There are some larger cat breeds that can weigh up to 25 pounds, and smaller breeds can weigh as little as 5 pounds.
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 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 viewed from the side, their ribs will be clearly visible, and their tummy will be noticeably be tucked in.
You will have difficulty feeling their ribs and spine because of the 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 downward.
How Often Should I Weigh My Dog or Cat?
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 to keep them in good health.
Symptoms of Pet Obesity
If you’re unsure whether your pet is obese, take a look at their body and pay close attention to their ribs, spine, and waist. If your pet's 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 [we see] 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. Keeping your pet at a healthy weight can significantly prolong their lifespan."
Keeping your pet at a healthy weight can significantly prolong their lifespan.
Who doesn't want more time with their furry best friend?
What is the Body Condition Score for Dogs and Cats?
The Body Condition Score (BCS) is a system that has been developed by vets to assess the correct and healthy weight of pets.
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. Here's how it's scored:
BCS 1–3 Underweight
BCS 4–5: Ideal weight
BCS 6–7 Overweight
BCS 8–9 Obese
Having a decent grasp of how BCS is assessed can help you understand whether your pet needs extra assistance in getting back to a healthy weight.
Help! My Pet's Overweight
Overfeeding pets makes them overweight and unhealthy.
The easiest and most obvious way to lose weight is by feeding your pets 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 highest 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's walks or letting them run off leash in a safe location more often to stretch their legs.
It might not be safe to simply let your cat roam outside for exercise, but there are plenty of ways to engage your cat in more physical exercise every day indoors!
Why Do I Need to Weigh My Pet for Medications?
When being treated, your vet needs to know the correct weight of your pet. All medications depend on it--even those designed for preventative care, such as those to prevent parasites. Here's why:
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.
While your vet probably won't prescribe your pet anything without seeing them in person (and weighing them) first, it's a good idea to keep tabs on your pet's weight so you can take quick action if you notice an uptick. The efficacy of their medications depends on it!
The Bottom Line
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 good plan.
And while we're talking about keeping your pet healthy, our non-insurance Wellness Plan can help reimburse you for qualified costs associated with preventative care. Learn more!