Most pets these days are overweight and most owners are completely unaware or maybe even in denial about it.
In Canada’s pet wellness report, Canadian veterinarians identified weight management as the #1 thing owners can do to increase the length of their pet’s life. We want you to be able to pick up on signs that your pet is overweight so that we can tackle it before it gets out of control and starts to have impacts on your dog’s health.
How Can I tell if my Dog is Fat?
In some ways dogs are just like us–they come in all shapes and sizes. In a species that varies from Chihuahua to Great Dane, there is no ideal number that would qualify as perfect weight. Each dog is unique and should be treated that way when discussing their body condition. However, there are several warning signs that your dog may be overweight that apply regardless of breed.
5 Signs Your Dog May Be Overweight
Any of the signs below may also indicate other conditions or illness, so it’s important to talk to your vet about any of these symptoms:
1. You Can’t Feel Those Ribs
You should be able to feel your dog’s ribs but not see them. If you can see them, your dog may be underweight and need to put on a few pounds. If you can’t see your dog’s ribs, place your hands on the side of their chest, if you still can’t feel them, chances are they’re overweight.
2. No Definition
All breeds have different body shapes but they all should have some kind of definition. All dogs should have a visible chest area, abdominal area, and a waistline. If your dog is looking rather sausage-like, chances are they are overweight. See the body condition chart we’ve linked to below to get an idea of what your dog should look like.
3. Trouble Breathing
Does your dog pant a lot? If your veterinarian has already ruled out other causes, there is a good chance your dog is overweight. Walk around the block and see how long it takes before they are panting fairly hard. As with humans, a dog that becomes out of breath quickly is probably out of shape.
4. Trouble getting around
Does your dog is having a hard time getting up from lying down or jumping up onto a couch or into the car? Again, If your veterinarian has already ruled out other causes, chances are your dog could benefit from losing some weight.
Dogs that are overweight often have gastrointestinal issues. If your dog has constipation or other gastro issues he or she may need to lose some weight. Talk to your veterinarian to rule out other causes, and to make sure they are on the right type of diet for their age, health and activity levels.
Body Condition Score
Another way to evaluate your dog’s shape is using a system called a body condition score. Stand over your dog and look down at them. Use the chart below to assess your pet’s shape. There should be a nice taper at the waistline (between their abdomen and where the hips go into the socket). If there is very little or no divot at all, your dog is likely too heavy–they may look oval or egg-shaped instead of resembling an hourglass. From the side, an obese pet will have a pendulous abdomen, hip fat, and neck fat, all of which are very noticeable.
Talk to Your Veterinarian
The most important step in determining if your dog is overweight or obese is to book an appointment with your veterinarian. Your vet will be able to tell you what a healthy weight is for your particular dog. The doctor will weigh your dog and perform a physical exam to rule out any medical conditions that may be causing the weight gain.
You and your veterinarian may decide that the best course of action is to put Rover on a diet. Factoring in breed and lifestyle factors such as age, your veterinarian will give you the recommended daily calorie intake for your particular pet. It’s important to get your dog’s calorie intake right. If you continue to feed your pet too many calories, the extra weight will stay on or even increase. If you cut your dog’s intake back too severely, or too quickly, they’ll be hungry all the time and may become undernourished.
Once you know how many calories your dog needs, you can use the nutritional labeling on their food to determine how much you should feed them in a day. Simply measure out their food in the morning and feed it over the course of the day.
Does it Really Matter if My Dog is Overweight?
In short, Yes!! Here is a list of reasons why it’s important to keep your dog at a healthy weight:
- Overweight dogs don’t live as long as lean, fit, healthy dogs do. On average, healthy dogs live 15% longer!
- Obese dogs are at a greater risk if they need to be anesthetized for surgery, since they have lowered lung function, sometimes reduced kidney and liver function, a higher likelihood of wound infection, and require more anesthetic.
- High blood pressure, kidney, and heart disease are quite common in overweight and obese pets and will require medication and special diets.
- Overweight pets tend to be less able to fight off infectious disease and often have slower healing.
- If your dog is overweight, he or she is 40% more likely to develop skin conditions.
How Can I get My Dog to the Right Weight?
Make your dog walk to his/her food bowl by keeping the bowl away from favorite snoozing spots. You could also keep the food and water in separate places (preferably on different levels or different rooms of your home). Within reason, the more your dog needs to move and work for their food, the better off they will be.
No free-feeding! With your veterinarian, determine how much you should be feeding and measure/weigh out your dogs’ portions.
Daily walks or trips to the park. Just like people, dogs need regular exercise. Don’t just walk around the block. Go for a daily walk of at least 20-30 minutes. Your dog will enjoy the stimulation, and you’ll both benefit from the activity!
Feed your dog using a maze feeder or slow feeder. Your dog will enjoy the challenge and will be taking in their calories more slowly and feel more satisfied. You can get both maze feeders through our Webstore, or at most pet stores.
Keep your eyes on your own plate! If you live in a multi-pet household be sure to feed any dogs on a reduced diet separately or monitor the meals and make sure that each dog is only eating his or her own meal.
Feed a portion controlled, balanced, breed and age-appropriate diet. Ask your veterinarian about the food your dog is eating to ensure it’s a good choice for your dog’s health.