Did you know that nearly half of dogs in North America and Europe are overweight and at least 1 in 4 dogs are obese?
Obesity causes many of the same health problems in dogs as it does with people, and one study showed that being even moderately overweight can shorten a dog’s lifespan by nearly 2 years!
Dogs already live shorter lives than humans, so to reduce that even further is a big deal.
With these statistics in mind, it’s natural to wonder: “Is my dog overweight?”
Let’s talk about the risks of having an overweight dog, how you can tell if your dog is overweight or obese, and what you can do about it if they are.
Can Dogs Really Be Overweight?
Just like people, dogs can store fat and become overweight if they are overfed or fed a diet that is too high in fat or simple carbohydrates.
So dietary adjustments may be needed, as well as a regular exercise plan to help your dog shed some excess body fat.
If your dog is carrying extra weight it will show in their demeanor. They'll become lethargic and lazy which could even lead to depression!
Health Risks For Overweight Dogs
If your dog is overweight it could be at risk for a variety of health issues, including:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Heart disease
- Arthritis and faster pain progression
- Bladder stones
- Reduced heat tolerance
- Higher risks during anesthesia
- Shortened lifespan
Obesity can also be a symptom of some diseases, like Cushing’s disease (overactive adrenal glands) or hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland), so it’s important to take your dog to the vet if you notice they’re overweight, especially if they’ve had sudden, unexplained weight gain.
Is My Dog Overweight?
Vets use a body condition score chart ranking a dog’s weight from either 1 to 5 or 1 to 9, with 3 or 5 being the middle score.
A dog that is a normal weight should have a defined waist when viewed from above and the side. You should be able to feel - but not see - your dog’s ribs.
If there is too much fat on your dog’s ribs for you to feel them, or if they have more of a round shape rather than an hourglass shape when viewed from above, they are likely overweight.
Even stocky dogs like Bulldogs should have a tucked-in waist, and you should be able to feel their ribs. Other signs that a Bulldog is overweight include difficulty grooming themselves and having trouble breathing.
How Do I Help My Dog Get To A Healthy Weight?
If your dog is overweight, you should first take them to the vet to rule out underlying illnesses causing their obesity.
While you’re there, your vet can recommend a weight loss plan specific to your dog. With that being said, here are some general guidelines to help your dog lose weight. Let's break the process down into two categories, diet and exercise:
- Switch your dog gradually to a weight-loss food over the course of a week to avoid stomach upset, and feed slightly less each meal until you reach your dog’s recommended meal amount.
- Feed the amount recommended for your dog’s IDEAL weight rather than their current weight.
- Use measuring cups to give your dog precisely the right amount of food.
- If your dog doesn’t like the taste of the weight-loss diet, you can add small amounts of low-fat beef or chicken broth, salmon juice, or an omega-3 fatty acid supplement.
- Feed your dog in a puzzle feeder or treat ball to help them feel full and burn a few more calories while eating.
- Reduce the size, frequency, and calories of treats. Dog-safe fruits and vegetables are a great alternative to high-fat dog treats. A good starting point is only to buy low-calorie diet food.
- Avoid giving your dog any table scraps.
Gradually increase the length and intensity of your daily walks. Once your dog has had a chance to “do their business,” don’t let them stop and sniff. Walk briskly and work your way up to at least one 30-minute walk daily.
Play with your dog for at least 10-15 minutes twice daily. It could be fetch, tug, chase, or anything else that keeps your dog active.
Losing weight will be much easier for your dog if they enjoy the process. So don't force them to do anything they kick against. Schedule walks and playtime for late afternoons or early evenings when it's cooler.
With the abovementioned plan of action in place, your dog should lose about 3-5% of their body weight each month. Most dogs achieve their ideal body weight within 6-8 months.
But remember to make all changes slowly. Your dog is less likely to get cranky or hungry if you reduce how much you feed them gradually rather than all at once.
Its ability to walk, run and play will also increase gradually as it sheds the extra weight.
Keeping Track Of Your Dog's Weight
Pet parents must monitor their dog's weight regularly to ensure they maintain a healthy weight. Remember that an overweight dog is at a higher risk of various health issues, such as joint problems, heart disease, and reduced lifespan.
To keep your dog in good shape, start by determining its healthy weight range based on its breed and size. Then consult your veterinarian to establish an appropriate weight goal for your furry friend.
Once you have a target weight in mind, create a plan to help them lose weight. This may include adjusting their diet, controlling portion sizes, and incorporating regular exercise into their daily routine.
By diligently tracking your dog's weight and implementing measures to address any weight concerns, you can contribute to their overall well-being and pet obesity prevention.