With 59 percent of dogs and 61 percent of cats classified as overweight or obese in the United States , pet parents may want to consider using a scale to monitor their pet’s weight at home.
Weighing your dog or cat at home can be a useful tool, whether you want to help your pet maintain a healthy weight, catch weight issues early, or track their weight loss journey. But the process can be challenging if your pet isn’t used to getting on a scale.
If you are wondering how to weigh a dog or how to weigh a cat, this article will provide steps, tips, and advice to help make weighing a pet at home safe, easy, and accurate.
How Often Should I Weigh My Dog or Cat?
If your pet received a clean bill of health at their last annual vet visit, and they were at a healthy weight, then consider weighing your dog or cat at home every couple of months. This should suffice to catch any weight gain or weight loss before it becomes a problem.
If your dog or cat is too heavy or too thin, then it is a good idea to weigh them once a month to track trends of weight loss or weight gain.
If your pet has a disease condition that causes changes in weight (such as cancer or diabetes), consult with your veterinarian to see how often you should weigh your dog or cat—and what to do if you notice changes in your pet’s weight.
How to Weigh Your Dog or Cat: Preparation and Training
Before even attempting to weigh a dog or cat at home, it is important to get them comfortable with the process first. Most pets don’t mind the scale if they have learned that it’s not something to be scared of.
But can you weigh a dog or cat on a human scale or do you need to buy special scales to weigh dogs and cats? The method and type of scale you use will vary depending on your pet’s size and comfort level. Options for weighing a dog or cat at home include:
- Placing a very small dog or cat on a baby scale
- Holding a small pet while standing on a bathroom scale
- Having a larger pet sit on a dog scale
Here is a closer look at each option to help you decide which is right for you and your pet:
Baby scale: If you have a very small pet (less than 10 pounds), then use a baby scale. Baby scales are more precise than adult scales, which is important for weighing small fur babies. Baby scales cost $20-$40.
Bathroom scale: If your dog or cat is small enough for you to lift and hold (generally less than 25 pounds), and they are happy and stay still while being held, then you can weigh them on your regular bathroom scale. First, weigh yourself while holding your pet. Then weigh yourself again alone. To calculate your pet’s weight, simply subtract your weight alone from your weight while holding your pet:
Your Weight While Holding Your Pet – Your Weight Alone = Your Pet’s Weight
Dog scale: If you want to weigh a large dog at home that is too big to lift (>40 pounds), you can purchase a dog scale. Scales for weighing dogs can be purchased online or at your local pet retail store. Prices start at $100. Different scales have different weight limits, so read the fine print before purchasing.
Getting Your Pet Used to Being Weighed
Since you will be weighing your pet on a regular basis, you will want the process to go as smoothly as possible. The best way to get your pet comfortable with being weighed is with practice and positive reinforcement.
To get started, place the scale on a hard, level surface before using it. It is best to place the scale on the floor to prevent falls from countertops. Then, using your preferred method, practice weighing your pet once or twice daily—without actually getting a measurement—for several days. Afterward, reward your pet with praise, pets, or a special treat that is reserved only for weighing. That way, your pet will build a positive relationship with the process.
If your pet resists, acts scared, or is wiggly, do not punish them or force them. This is new for them! The goal is to make weighing easy and stress free for both of you. You will need to go slow, be calm and reassuring, and work beneath your pet’s fear threshold. Maybe it just starts with leaving the scale out for a few days with a treat or two on it so your pet can get used to the strange new device.
If you go slow and your pet still is struggling with the scale, ask your veterinary care team or your trainer for advice on how to desensitize and counter condition your pet to not be fearful of the scale.
Steps for Weighing Your Pet
Once your pet feels more comfortable with the idea of being weighed, you can attempt to get an accurate weight measurement. To weigh your dog or cat at home, follow these steps:
Step 1: Depending on the method you are using, either pick up your pet and place them on the baby scale, hold your pet and get on the bathroom scale with them, or ask your dog to sit on the dog scale.
Step 2: Wait until your pet is still and the number stabilizes on the scale, then note the number.*
*If you are using a bathroom scale, step off the scale, put your pet down, and weigh yourself again alone, then calculate your pet’s weight using the formula discussed earlier:
Your Weight While Holding Your Pet – Your Weight Alone = Your Pet’s Weight
Step 3: Record the date and your pet’s weight in a calendar or pet health journal.
Benefits of Weighing Dogs and Cats
Tangible benefits to weighing your pet at home include:
- Raises the likelihood you will keep your pet at a healthy weight and will alert you to weigh gain earlier, making it easier to course correct and shed unhealthy weight gain
- Lets you know if your pet is losing weight. Many diseases, including cancer and diabetes, cause weight loss and are easier to treat if caught earlier.
- Saves you a trip to the veterinary clinic to weigh your pet.
- Less stressful to most pets than weighing them at the veterinary clinic.
If you don’t have an easy way to weigh your pet at home or simply don’t want to, then you can weigh your pet at your local veterinary clinic. Most clinics will let you weigh your pet for free. The benefit of weighing your pet at the veterinary hospital is that they will keep track of your pet’s weight too. Your pet also gets to have a ‘fun’ visit, which can help lower stress for your pet when they have to go to the vet for less fun procedures.
Other Tips for Successful Weight Checks for Pets
The best way to make weight checks for pets successful is to make them fun and practice, practice, practice. Now that you know how to weigh your dog or how to weigh your cat, here are some other helpful tips to consider:
- Start training your pet on the scale when they are a puppy or kitten.
- Use the notes application on your phone or use an online weight tracker to keep a record of your pet’s weight over time, so you can see trends or intervene early with weight gain or weight loss
- Always use the same scale, as individual scale measurements will vary.
- Your pet’s weight varies during the day just like it does for humans. Try to weigh your pet at the same time of day.
- With dogs, it may help to brush up on basic training cues, such as ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ before trying to weigh them.
- Dogs and cats can also be clicker trained to sit on a scale. Click and reward your pet for sniffing the scale. Click and reward your pet for placing a paw on the scale, and then click and reward them for holding a sit or standing quietly on the scale.
- If you weigh your pet at home and notice a change in your pet’s weight that is not expected, it is best to take your pet to the veterinary clinic to confirm the weight change on a hospital scale.
- 2022 Pet Obesity Prevalence Survey. Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.petobesityprevention.org/2022