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How to Know if Your Pet is Underweight

Symptoms and Signs your Cat or Dog May be Underweight

By Madeleine Burry. October 16, 2012 | See Comments

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    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

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How to Know if Your Pet is Underweight

Several symptoms can point to an underweight pet. Here's what you'll need to look for to watch your pet's weight.

To start with the obvious, the major symptom of an underweight pet is an abrupt loss of weight, or a lower-than-average body size compared to what’s typical for your pet’s breed. But the symptoms of problematic weight loss stretch beyond pounds and scales. Discover other revealing signs of your pet’s weight loss.

Eating Less

Is your pet eating less? A decreased appetite is common in the summertime, but could be a cause for concern, especially if it’s occurring in conjunction with some of the other symptoms listed below. If your cat or dog is new to your family, keep in mind that often pets eat less than the guidelines listed on the back of the bag of dry food or can of wet food. The measurements on food containers are just an average, so some pets will eat a bit more, and others a bit less.

Gastrointestinal Distress

As pets lose weight, you may observe them vomiting or experiencing diarrhea. Pets may also regurgitate food, or seem to have difficulty swallowing.

Visible Signs

Your cat or dog may seem lethargic, and have a lower energy level than usual due to a lack of nutrients. Underweight cats and dogs might move around less and avoid exercise. You might notice that your pet’s coat looks matted or dull, and that their grooming isn’t as thorough. With weight loss, your pet can also start to lose muscle mass. When pets are extremely underweight, their ribs can become visible.

How to Detect Weight Loss

Just as it can be hard to notice when a pet gains weight, it can be a challenge to detect weight loss since the change is often gradual, and not a dramatic overnight shift. If you know your pet’s typical weight range from vet visits, you can weigh your pet on the scale to check for a difference. If you’re dealing with a new pet, or aren’t familiar with your cat or dog’s weight, try standing above your pet and looking down. Pets should have a definite waist indentation, but an exaggerated hourglass figure could be a sign that your pet is underweight.

Another way to see if your pet is too skinny is to feel along his sides--this is actually the same way you’d check for obesity. When pets are a healthy weight, you can feel their ribs with a thin layer of fat over them. With overweight pets, you won’t be able to detect the ribs because of an obscuring layer of fat. Underweight pets have the reverse problem, and lack any padding between their skin and ribs. You should not feel like you are touching bones directly as you move your hand along your cat or dog’s sides.

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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