7 Tips to Help Keep Your Pet Safe This Summer

By Health No Comments

If you’re like us, you can’t wait to get out of the house with your pets this summer. But while you’re enjoying the warm weather, we wanted to share some tips to help keep the summer fun and safe for you and your pet.

  1. Watch for Heatstroke

Like people, pets can suffer from heatstroke. Unlike us, though, dogs and cats don’t cool off primarily through sweating. When pets get hot, they pant, but panting isn’t always enough to bring down their body temperature. This puts our pets at higher risk for heatstroke, or elevated core body temperature, a dangerous, potentially deadly condition.

So what causes heatstroke in dogs and cats?

  • Being outside in warm temperatures, especially on sunny days without access to shade or water
  • Exercising (including just walking) during the heat of the day
  • Being stuck in a hot car, even with the windows cracked

Heatstroke can be life-threatening, especially if not caught and treated quickly. Call us immediately at 908-735-9998 if you think your pet may be suffering from heatstroke.

Brachycephalic pets (those with short noses or flat faces, such as boxers, bulldogs, pugs, Persians, Himalayans, and Burmese cats), overweight pets, seniors, puppies and kittens, pets with dark skin or fur, and those with certain medical conditions are at higher risk of heatstroke.

Pets with heatstroke may show the following signs:

  • Panting rapidly
  • Salivating or drooling excessively
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness or agitation
  • Trouble breathing
  • Glassy eyes
  • Bright red gums
  • Confusion
  • Collapse

To prevent heatstroke in your pet:

  • Make sure your pet has access to shade and plenty of room temperature (not cold) water to drink.
  • Consider exercising your pet in the morning or evening, when the temperature is lower.
  • Never leave your pet alone in a car, even on days that don’t seem that warm. When it’s only 70 degrees Fahrenheit outside, the inside of your car can climb to almost 100 degrees in just 20 minutes! On a 90-degree day, your car’s interior will reach almost 120 degrees in that same time. Cracking the windows makes very little difference.



  1. Avoid Hot Surfaces

Sidewalks, roadways, and even sand can get extremely hot during summer days. If you can’t leave your hand or foot on a sidewalk or concrete for 5 to 10 seconds, then your pet’s paw pads can’t take the heat either.

  1. Keep Your Pet Out of Summer Toxins

Several kinds of poisons can spell trouble for pets if they get into them:

  • Fertilizers and pesticides, for instance, often cause relatively mild gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea, but can be more problematic if large amounts are consumed or if they contain iron or other worrisome ingredients.
  • Mulch can cause a blockage inside a pet’s GI system, and cocoa bean mulch can potentially cause vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle tremors if the product contains enough theobromine and caffeine (the same chemicals in chocolate that are toxic to pets) or if a pet eats a large amount.
  • Bait, even in small amounts, can cause tremors, seizures, cardiovascular and respiratory problems, and other serious signs. Depending on the kind of bait, ingestion by a pet can be deadly.
  • Most herbicides tend to be less of a concern, as long as the product is applied correctly and pets are kept off the yard or other treated area until the product dries completely. Follow label instructions, and be sure to dilute any runoff.

Keep the following products well out of reach or ideally locked away from pets, and keep pets away from areas where the products are being used: pesticides, rodenticides like mole and gopher bait, snail and slug bait, mulch, herbicides, and fertilizers that contain iron or bone, blood, or feather meal. Even products that are less toxic to pets can cause serious symptoms if a pet consumes a lot at one time. Close and properly dispose of used containers.

If you have a free-roaming cat, consider using pet-safe alternatives where possible or removing weeds by hand rather than using herbicides, for instance.

Call us right away at 908-735-9998 if you think your pet has consumed something toxic. During off-hours, you can call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 or Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 (a fee may be charged).

  1. Be Aware of Toxic Plants

Certain plants pose a risk to pets as well. Some may only cause GI issues, but others can be life-threatening. Plants to keep your pet away from include:

  • Rhubarb (leaves)
  • Tomato (the plants and unripe fruit, or green tomatoes)
  • Onions, garlic, and chives
  • Potato (both the leaves and raw potatoes)
  • Lilies (many varieties are extremely toxic to cats)
  • Sago palm (very deadly for dogs)

For more information on toxic plants, please give us a call or consult these sites:

  1. Watch Out for Stinging Insects

This time of year, there are plenty of stinging insects that can cause problems for pets. Be on the lookout for beehives, wasp nests, yellow jackets, and hornets around your home and in places where you visit or vacation with your pet. If your pet gets stung, don’t wait for an allergic reaction or other symptoms. Call us right away at 908-735-9998! A sting can become life-threatening within minutes.

  1. Protect Your Pet at Cookouts

Attending a cookout or picnic with your 4-legged friend can be fun, but it can quickly turn into an emergency if your pet consumes any food that can be dangerous, like corn cobs, avocado pits, whole stone fruits like peaches and cherries, watermelon (rinds and seeds), meat with bones, food on skewers, onions, grapes, or raisins. Keep your pet away from the food, especially if you know he or she tends to eat food off the ground or sneak treats from tables.

  1. Keep Your Pet Away From Fireworks

Not only can fireworks frighten pets, but they can cause burns and other injuries, often to the eyes, mouth, or paws. Some types of fireworks are corrosive or toxic if consumed; they can cause serious GI issues in pets and may even be deadly if they contain heavy metals and hazardous chemicals.

To be safe, keep your pet away from all stored fireworks, as well as far away from the area where you plan to set them off. If your pet tends to be scared of fireworks (or if you aren’t sure), consider leaving him or her at home, ideally with the TV or radio on to drown out the sound, while you attend any events where fireworks are planned.

We can also offer options, such as medications and pheromones, to help to calm your pet and reduce his or her fear of fireworks and other loud noises.

Give us a call to find out how we can help your pet with noise aversion!

Your South Branch Vet Can Help

If you have questions about keeping your pet safe this summer, please give us a call. We’re here for you and your pet!

Flea and Ticks: Is Your Pet Protected From These Parasites?

By Health No Comments

Fleas and ticks pose a risk to pets and people in Hunterdon County and throughout New Jersey. Besides feeding on blood, fleas and ticks can also transmit serious illnesses. These diseases can cause lasting health issues, which is why we want to make sure our clients are aware of the problems these small parasites can cause—and how to help keep your pets healthy.


Fleas and Flea Diseases

Fleas tend to be more common in warmer months, but they can survive throughout the year in the right conditions. Plus, once they’re inside your home, fleas can multiply quickly and be difficult and frustrating to get rid of.


Although most people tend to think of fleas as irritating insects that bite pets, these wingless blood suckers can also feed on people and cause problems in pets that are much more severe than just itching, including:

  • Flea allergy dermatitis—Also known as FAD, this common condition affects pets who are allergic to flea saliva, causing itchy, inflamed skin and hair loss. It can lead to skin infections when pets scratch and bite themselves repeatedly. Even just a few flea bites can cause FAD.
  • Tapeworms—Cats and dogs (and people—usually children) can get tapeworms if they swallow an infected flea.
  • Anemia—Puppies and kittens with flea infestations can suffer from serious, potentially life-threatening blood loss.
  • BartonellaPets and people can also be infected with Bartonella bacteria, which causes cat scratch disease in humans and can cause serious symptoms in dogs, including an enlarged liver or spleen or even inflammation of the heart or brain.

At South Branch, we recommend keeping all dogs and cats on flea control year-round to make sure fleas can’t get a foothold on your pet or in your home.


Signs of Flea-borne Diseases

Contact your South Branch veterinarian if you notice any of the following:

  • Severe, persistent scratching
  • Licking, chewing, or biting at the skin
  • Red, irritated skin
  • Hair loss
  • Flea droppings (“flea dirt”)
  • Flea eggs
  • Tapeworms



There are almost 900 tick species in the world, with just a handful that pose a danger to pets and people in our area. The main ticks we have in New Jersey are deer (blacklegged) ticks, American dog ticks, brown dog ticks, and lone star ticks. A new tick species, the Asian longhorned tick, has also been found in Hunterdon County.


If you find a tick on your pet, you can submit a photo and information about the tick to TickSpotters, a crowdsourced survey tool that tracks ticks across the country.


Tick Diseases in Dogs

The ticks we have in our area can transmit several diseases to dogs, including:

  • Lyme disease—Last year, more than 1,400 dogs tested positive for Lyme disease in Hunterdon County, with almost 20,000 infected across New Jersey.
  • Anaplasmosis—The infection risk for this tick-transmitted disease is also high in our area. Around 1,700 dogs in Hunterdon County and almost 15,000 dogs in the state tested positive for anaplasmosis in 2019.
  • Ehrlichiosis—Although the risk for this disease in New Jersey doesn’t appear as high as it is for Lyme disease and anaplasmosis, there were still around 8,000 dogs who tested positive.

Ticks can also transmit other diseases to dogs, including babesiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, as well as tick paralysis, a serious, potentially deadly condition in which the nervous system is attacked by a toxin in the tick’s saliva.


Tick Diseases in Cats

Cats aren’t immune from ticks either. The parasites can cause tick paralysis and several diseases in cats, including Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis. Other tick-borne diseases, such as cytauxzoonosis and tularemia, although rare, can be deadly in cats.


Signs of Tick-borne Diseases

If you find a tick attached to your pet (or even if you don’t), let us know right away if you notice any of these signs of tick-transmitted diseases:

  • Fever
  • Lameness (which may shift from one leg to another)
  • Loss of appetite or weight
  • Swollen, stiff, or painful joints
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Vomiting or diarrhea


Ticks can be hard to spot, especially in your pet’s fur. Adult deer ticks are about the size of a sesame seed, and nymphs (immature ticks) are only about the size of a poppy seed or pinhead!


The Bottom Line

Fleas and ticks are a risk in Hunterdon County and around the country. At South Branch, we want to help keep our patients safe from these parasites.


The best way to prevent fleas and ticks is to keep your pet on a flea and tick control medication.


If you’re planning a trip, give us a call so we can make sure you’re stocked up on the parasite preventives you’ll need to help keep your pet protected while you travel. And if you’re staying home, let’s make sure your pet has the right parasite control to prevent tick and flea infestations. Call us today to make sure your pet is protected!

Your Pet’s Dental Health Matters

By Health No Comments

This February, celebrate National Pet Dental Health Month with us. Dental care plays an important role in your pet’s overall health, so we’re sharing some important information about why we make dental care a priority at South Branch.

By 3 years of age, most dogs and cats have some form of periodontal disease (also called dental or gum disease). With periodontal disease may come other potential health problems—and not just in the pet’s mouth. Besides gum recession, infection, and tooth loss, periodontal disease can cause changes in the heart, kidneys, and liver.

Periodontal Disease in Pets

Plaque forms on teeth (pet and human alike) constantly. When it’s not removed regularly (through brushing), it changes into hardened tartar, which can’t be brushed away. Plaque continues to form on top of the tartar.

Eventually, if these layers of bacteria-laden tartar aren’t removed through a professional veterinary cleaning, the pet will end up with inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), which will progress to infection and loss of tooth support (advanced periodontal disease).

When pets don’t receive regular dental care, they may need more than just a cleaning. Dental extractions may be required to remove infected teeth and make a pet’s mouth healthy again.

Signs of Dental Trouble in Pets

Contact your South Branch veterinarian if you notice any of the following:

  • Bad breath
  • Brown or yellow teeth
  • Red, swollen gums
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Broken or loose teeth
  • Reluctance or refusal to eat
  • Dropping food from the mouth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Pawing at the mouth or face
  • Sneezing

Bad breath in pets isn’t normal. It’s almost always a sign of oral issues.

Steps to Keep Your Pet’s Mouth Healthy

  1. Schedule a Professional Dental Exam

Bringing your pet in for regular veterinary dental exams and cleanings is the first step to achieving better dental health for your dog or cat.

We use dental radiographs (x-rays) to get a true picture of what your pet’s teeth look like under the gums—not just on the surface. We can only assess around 40% of a dog or cat’s teeth by just looking at them. The rest is hidden under the gums, so we use x-rays to show us what might be lurking unseen, such as painful root disease, tooth resorption, or the extent of a cracked tooth. That way, we can be sure we’re properly treating your pet.

  1. Make Home Care a Priority

You play an essential role in your pet’s dental health. Brushing your pet’s teeth is one of the most important ways you can help keep periodontal disease at bay.

Never use human toothpaste in pets! It contains ingredients that can make your pet sick.

Although daily brushing is ideal, we understand that it may not always be possible. Fortunately, you have a number of dental products to choose from that can also help control plaque and tartar buildup in your pet:

  • Special dental diets and chews
  • Dental toys
  • Oral rinses and sprays
  • Drinking water additives
  • Dental sealants (which your pet’s vet will apply first, after a cleaning, and then need to be reapplied at home)

Not all dental products are created equal. Look for products with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) Seal of Acceptance, and ask us what products we recommend.

By being proactive about dental care, you can help protect your pet’s overall health.

Schedule Your Pet’s Dental Exam Today

At South Branch, we recommend that pets visit us at least once a year for a dental evaluation. We’ll examine your pet’s teeth and gums and let you know what we recommend to maintain or improve your pet’s oral health. Call or schedule an appointment today!

Adult Wellness Care: Essential for a Healthier Life for Your Pet

By Health No Comments

Adult Wellness Care: Essential for a Healthier Life for Your Pet

Wellness care is important for pets throughout their lives. Although most dogs and cats are often the healthiest during their adult years, practicing prevention can be key to helping your pet live well.

Most dogs and cats are considered adults from about 1 year until about 6 or 7 years of age, depending on breed and size.

Why Wellness Exams and Preventive Care Matter

One of the main ways to keep your pet as healthy as possible is through regular veterinary wellness exams. As pets transition from puppy- or kittenhood into their adult years, we like to see them every 6 to 12 months for a checkup (frequency depends on lifestyle, health, and age). During these visits, we’ll focus on the following aspects of their care.


This is when we switch your pet to an adult cat or dog vaccination schedule. We’ll give vaccine boosters to help provide your pet with continued protection against serious, highly contagious, and potentially deadly diseases. These include rabies, distemper, parvovirus, parainfluenza, and adenovirus (hepatitis) in dogs and rabies, panleukopenia (feline distemper), viral rhinotracheitis (herpesvirus), and calicivirus in cats.

We may also recommend additional vaccines to help protect against diseases that your individual pet may be at risk for because of lifestyle, risk of exposure, and other factors.

Disease Prevention/Detection

Many pets (cats in particular) don’t tend to show signs of disease, especially in the early stages. Annual wellness exams give us the chance to catch any potential diseases or conditions as early as possible. Early diagnosis can not only provide us with more options for treatment but can also give your pet a better quality of life.

Parasite Prevention

Making sure your pet remains free of parasites is an important part of keeping your pet and the rest of your family healthy.

  • Heartworms, transmitted by mosquitoes, can cause lasting, sometimes fatal damage to a pet’s heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels. Treatment of heartworm infection in dogs is difficult, and no treatment is approved for cats.
  • Some parasites that pets can harbor, like hookworms, roundworms, and tapeworms, can be transmitted to humans.
  • Blood-sucking fleas and ticks are happy to feast on both pets and people as well.

We’ll provide your pet with a personalized parasite prevention plan that can help protect your whole family.


A well-balanced, complete diet is essential throughout your dog or cat’s life. We can recommend an appropriate diet and amount to feed based on your individual pet’s needs.

Exercise & Activity

Keeping your pet at an ideal weight can help your pet stay healthier and even reduce the risk of certain diseases, such as arthritis, diabetes, respiratory problems, and heart, kidney, and liver disease. At your pet’s wellness visit, we can talk about ways to keep your adult pet active and fit.

Dental Care

Your cat or dog’s oral health can have an effect on his or her overall health. Untreated, dental (or periodontal) disease can lead to problems with your pet’s heart, kidneys, and liver. That’s why we take a look inside your pet’s mouth and will recommend a dental exam and cleaning, if needed, to help keep your pet healthy.

To find out more, look for our next blog, where we’ll highlight the importance of dental care for your pet.

What Screening Tests Tell Us

As part of your pet’s wellness exam, we’ll recommend blood work, a urinalysis, a fecal exam (which is why we request a stool sample from your pet), and other tests as needed to check for—and hopefully rule out—heartworm disease, tick-borne diseases, and breed-specific conditions, such as heart disease or joint issues, as appropriate for your individual pet.

How Wellness Exams and Screening Tests Help You

In addition to playing a crucial role in helping to keep your pet healthy throughout life, regular wellness exams give you the opportunity to:

  • Ask us about any questions or concerns you might have
  • Bring up anything you’ve noticed that seems different with your pet, like a behavior that’s new or a lump you hadn’t noticed before

And screening tests can not only give us an early start on treatment, but can give you peace of mind when they come back negative.

Wellness exams and screening tests play an essential role in your pet’s health. At South Branch, we prefer to practice preventive care when possible. By being proactive, we can sometimes even prevent certain conditions or illnesses in the first place. Schedule your pet’s wellness exam today!

If you’re stressed about bringing your pet in for an exam, give us a call. As a Cat Friendly Practice® and Fear Free facility, we’ll help make sure you and your pet both have a calmer, more relaxed veterinary visit.


By Health No Comments

Arthritis in Pets: Far More Common Than You Might Think
Dogs and cats are similar to people in many ways. One thing we have in common with our canine and feline companions is that we can develop osteoarthritis (OA).

What is osteoarthritis?
OA is a painful, progressive disease that causes joint inflammation, reduces mobility and flexibility, and can lower quality of life in pets who suffer from it. OA cannot be cured, but it can be slowed, especially if it’s caught early.

How common is arthritis in dogs?
Arthritis affects at least 20% to 25% of dogs. And size doesn’t matter. Although larger dogs may be more prone to getting OA, any size dog can develop the disease.

Cats don’t get arthritis, do they?
Actually, arthritis is fairly common in cats. Studies have found evidence of OA in 40% to >90% of cats of all ages.

Isn’t arthritis just an old-age disease?
Although we may think of OA as a disease that develops as pets age, that’s not always the case. In fact, cats and dogs of almost any age can develop OA.

How do I know if my pet has arthritis?
Keep an eye out for any potential behavior or physical changes associated with OA. If your pet is older, don’t assume that any changes that you notice are just related to age.

Signs of OA-associated pain in pets include changes in mobility, activity, or sociability. These changes may be subtle.

In dogs, signs of OA include:

  • Limping
  • Favoring a leg
  • Lagging behind on walks
  • Reluctance to get up from a seated or lying position
  • Trouble jumping up onto or off the sofa/bed or into or out of the car
  • Reluctance to go up or down stairs
  • Sleeping more
  • Eating less
  • Hiding or avoiding contact with other pets or family members
  • Irritability, especially when handled or approached
  • Chewing, licking, or biting painful areas
  • Lack of interest in playing

In cats, signs of OA include:

  • Making small jumps instead of a big leap to get up onto a table or countertop
  • Reluctance to jump from heights
  • Changes in daily routines
  • Difficulty getting in or out of the litterbox
  • Urinating or defecating outside the litterbox
  • Trouble with or lack of grooming
  • Reluctance to climb stairs
  • Awkward movements (less graceful than normal)
  • Hiding or avoiding contact with other pets or family members
  • Changes in mood or tolerance of being handled (irritability)
  • Sleeping more
  • Eating less
  • Lack of interest in playing

You can use these checklists to help spot OA pain in your dog or cat—and share the results with us:

Younger pets and those in the early stages of OA may not show obvious signs of the disease (such as limping). That’s why it’s important for us to screen your pet for arthritis.

Can I help prevent my pet from getting arthritis?
Although we can’t know for sure if what we do will prevent OA in pets, there are some steps you can take to help reduce the chance that your pet will get the disease:

  • Keep your pet at a healthy weight.
  • Make sure your pet gets enough low-impact exercise, such as walking, jogging, and swimming.
  • Ask us whether your pet could benefit from a special diet or supplement.

How can I help my pet with arthritis?
Although OA can’t be cured, your pet doesn’t have to live with the pain from arthritis. At South Branch, we have many options to help pets with OA.

Schedule your pet’s OA screening today or give us a call to set up an appointment. We’ll work with you to get your pet moving more comfortably again and to make sure your pet stays as pain-free as possible.


  • American College of Veterinary Surgeons. Osteoarthritis in dogs. https://www.acvs.org/small-animal/osteoarthritis-in-dogs. Accessed December 19, 2019.
  • Hardie EM, Roe SC, Martin FR. Radiographic evidence of degenerative joint disease in geriatric cats: 100 cases (1994-1997). 2002;220(5):628-632.
  • KG MarketSense. 2018 Global Veterinarian and Pet Owner Market Research.
  • Lascelles BD, Henry JB 3rd, Brown J, et al. Cross-sectional study of the prevalence of radiographic degenerative joint disease in domesticated cats. Vet Surg. 2010;39(5):535-544.
  • Mele E. Epidemiology of osteoarthritis. Vet Focus. 2007;17(3):4-10.
  • Slingerland LI, Hazewinkel HA, Meij BP, et al. Cross-sectional study of the prevalence and clinical features of osteoarthritis in 100 cats. Vet J. 2011;187(3):304-309.

Pet Insurance: Get Peace of Mind for Your Pet’s Veterinary Care

By Pet Insurance No Comments

If something unexpected happens to your pet, are you prepared to pay for the cost of services out of pocket? If you don’t have money set aside in an emergency pet care fund (or even if you do), you might want to consider pet insurance.

At South Branch, we don’t want financial concerns to prevent you from providing your pet with needed veterinary care.

Why We Like Pet Insurance

Pet insurance can give you peace of mind. You shouldn’t have to decide between your pet and your pocketbook. When you have pet insurance, even if your pet needs emergency care or a special procedure, you won’t have to worry as much about the cost getting in the way of your pet receiving proper care.

It’s easier than saving for emergencies. Even the most proactive pet owners can’t always plan ahead for pet care costs. Having a pet health insurance plan means you don’t have to have thousands sitting in a savings account just in case.

How Pet Insurance Works

You typically pay a monthly premium as well as a copay for each service or event, such as:

  • Wellness exams
  • Other routine care (like diagnostic tests)
  • Preventive medications (like heartworm and flea/tick prevention)
  • Sick visits
  • Accidents
  • Illnesses
  • Hospitalizations
  • Surgeries
  • Prescription medications

Some plans require an additional premium for certain services/events to be covered, and most plans also have a deductible.

Other services and conditions that some plans are less likely to cover include:

  • Dental diseases and surgeries
  • Cancer
  • Chronic diseases and conditions
  • Prescription pet foods
  • Spay/neuter procedures
  • Alternative/holistic therapies
  • Rehabilitation
  • Grooming
  • Training/behavioral therapy
  • Mobility aids
  • Cosmetic procedures

Some plans don’t cover certain genetic conditions based on a pet’s breed. Insurance plans also don’t tend to cover diseases or conditions that are congenital (ones that a pet was born with) or otherwise pre-existing (that the pet has already developed). But some may cover pre-existing conditions that can be cured.

Coverage can vary widely from one plan to the next, so it’s important to carefully review the plans you’re considering before making a choice.

<callout> Your pet’s age, breed, current health condition, and lifestyle may all make a difference in what pet health insurance plan is best for you.

How to Pick a Pet Insurance Plan

You’ll want to get answers about these pet insurance plan policies before choosing a plan:

  • Veterinary hospital—Can you continue to visit South Branch?
  • Emergency/specialty care—Can you use any emergency clinic or any specialist?
  • Cost—How much is the monthly premium? Are exam fees included?
  • Coverage—Which services, events, and conditions/diseases are covered?
  • Exclusions—Which services, events, and conditions/diseases aren’t covered?
  • Deductible(s)—What amount do you have to pay out before reimbursement kicks in? How often do you have to meet this deductible (for instance, annually, per lifetime, or per condition or item)?
  • Reimbursement policy—Do you get a set amount back regardless of how much the veterinary hospital charges?
  • Maximum coverage amounts—Is there a per lifetime or predetermined amount of coverage based on a set fee schedule?

Want Help Choosing a Pet Insurance Plan?

Just as with our own health insurance, selecting an insurance plan for your pet can be overwhelming. But it’s important, and we’re here to help.

Don’t be afraid to ask us any questions you might have about pet insurance. Give us a call or stop by to chat.

 To start comparing plans, check out petinsuranceinfo.com.  At South Branch, when it comes to your pet’s veterinary care, we want to be sure you’re prepared and have peace of mind.




Obesity Awareness: Being Overweight Can Hurt Your Pet

By Obesity No Comments

According to a recent survey, more than half of pets—around 56 million cats and 50 million dogs—in the United States may be overweight or obese!*

If your pet is carrying extra weight, you’re not on your own. We’ll work with you to create an individualized plan to help get your pet trimmed down and on a weight maintenance plan.

So how do I know if my pet is overweight or just right?

Take a moment to do this quick check:

  • You should be able to easily feel your pet’s ribs if you run your fingers across your pet’s abdomen.
  • From the side, you should also be able to see a “tuck-in” or upward slope from the belly toward your pet’s hind end.
  • From the top view, your pet should have a visible waist behind the ribs.
  • If you can see your pet’s ribs, though, then your pet may be too thin.

Body condition score (or BCS) is another way we determine your pet’s ideal size and shape. We assign a score of 1 to 5, with 1 being too thin and 5 being obese. The ideal weight we’re aiming for is in the middle, at a 3.

Check out these charts from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association that show ideal body condition for healthy dogs and cats. Ideal weight varies, even among similarly sized dogs or cats. When you bring your pet in for a visit, we’ll show you how to gauge your pet’s weight and BCS.

What are the health risks for overweight pets?

Unfortunately, carrying extra weight can cause all kinds of health issues for our pets. Both dogs and cats are at increased risk of developing:

  • Arthritis and other joint issues
  • Cancer
  • Constipation
  • Decreased immune function
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Respiratory issues

Even scarier, dogs and cats carrying extra weight may not live as long as those at a healthy weight.