Sizing Up Your Pet: The Four Point Pudge Test

In veterinary practice, as in life, there are certain subjects that tend to make people squirm. Telling clients that their pet is overweight is one of these. When it comes time to talk tough about obesity and pets, the biggest hurdle is usually pet owner denial.

It is important for our clients to understand that letting their pets pack on pounds is putting them at risk for serious medical issues that can shorten and decrease the quality of their lives. For instance, excess weight on a pet’s frame can strain the joints and spine, and can lead to serious conditions like diabetes, respiratory difficulty, and congestive heart failure.

More than half of all pets in this country are overweight, and a quarter of them can be clinically identified as obese, so here is a basic, at home, four point check to make sure your pet isn’t just “big boned”.

  • 1. Feel your dog’s ribs. A dog at a healthy weight will have a small covering of fat over the ribs, but each bone should still be distinct. If you can’t find or easily feel your dog’s ribs, your pet is carrying too much weight.
  • 2. Most breeds of dogs and cats should not have more than one roll of skin at the base of the neck. Definitely retrievers with two or more rolls at that location are overweight.
  • 3. Stand directly above your standing dog or cat and look down at his or her back. This is the best way to gauge the size of the waist. The waist should be narrower than the ribcage and the hips. If it’s not clearly defined, or bulging outward, it’s time for action.
  • 4. Finally, the last test is to look at your standing dog or cat in side profile. There is some variability between breeds, but in every case if you follow the line of the bottom of the chest rearward there should be a defined “abdominal tuck” or upward angle of the belly toward the rear legs. It will be more prominent on a german shepherd than on a shih tzu or cat, but a pet with zero tuck, or especially a bulging belly, is showing you that it’s time to lose weight.

If your pet does pass the pudge test – congratulations and stick to your regular exercise plan and measuring out your pet’s food and treats everyday!

If your pet doesn’t pass this four point inspection and you’re thinking about a weight loss program, I want to stress that the first step is to make sure there are no underlying medical conditions that could be causing the weight gain by having a complete exam with our doctors. In next week’s newsletter we will be introducing some new ideas and technology that are revolutionizing weight loss programs for pets.

To better assess the health of your pets’ teeth we now have DIGITAL DENTAL X-RAY EQUIPMENT. This allows us to see hidden periodontal disease surrounding the tooth roots so that action can be taken to judiciously suggest treatment or extraction since our pets can’t tell us where it hurts them.


Pittsburgh Spay & Vaccination Clinic is a state-of-the-art, full-service suburban veterinary facility serving the Pittsburgh Area since 1980.. We offer diagnostic, medical, surgical, and dental care to dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, and pocket pets in the Pittsburgh area.

Join Our Mailing List

Need a Refill of Your Pet’s Medications? Check out our online pharmacy

Once approved, the medications will be delivered straight to your address.
veterinary hospital Pittsburgh, PA