Is my dog overweight?
Dog obesity can cause serious health problems, reducing the quality and length of your dog’s life.
If your dog has other health problems, being overweight can make these worse as well as affecting your pet’s ability to perform necessary behaviours such as exercise.
Some of the conditions associated with pet obesity include:
- High blood pressure
- Breathing problems
- Heart disease
How to tell if your dog is obese
Obesity is defined as excess fat that impairs a dog’s health.
People are generally regarded as being obese if they are 20-25 per cent heavier than the ideal bodyweight, and a similar rule applies to pets.
You can assess your dog using a body condition score, which can be found online but you can check your dog at home.
If your dog is patient enough to sit on a scale, weigh them so you can compare the weight to recommended weights for their breed and age.
Stand above your dog and look down on them. You should be able to feel his or her ribs through the skin but not see them. If you can see the ribs, your dog is too skinny.
Your dog’s body should taper at the waist to give an hourglass figure – they should not be oval shaped.
Also look at your dog from the side. The tummy should tuck in below the ribs, meaning the diameter should be smaller than around the chest.
Again, the size of the difference will vary between breeds, but if your dog has no abdominal tuck, he or she is probably carrying too much weight.
On your dog’s back, close to the tail, you should be able to feel bones under a thin layer of fat. If the fat is too thick and you cannot distinguish any bones, this might be a sign of an overweight dog.
If you are not sure, take your dog to see a vet. They will be able to recognise dog obesity and any excessive weight immediately and advise you on how you can take action to help your pet.
What causes obesity in dogs?
Just like for people, the main cause of weight gain is eating too much or a lack of exercise – or both. Some diseases can also lead to an overweight dog.
It can affect all breeds of all ages, though some dog breeds are more susceptible than others.
Neutered dogs are more at risk of weight gain and dog obesity is more common in females.
Statistics show that overweight dogs are more likely to live in homes with overweight owners.
How to treat obesity in dogs
The Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association says: “Being overweight is unhealthy for pets as it can lead to a shortened life-span, heart disease, arthritis and diabetes.
“Speak to your local vet for advice and a thorough health check-up.
“The vet will look for any underlying medical reasons as to why your pet may be too heavy.
“If there are no underlying health issues, a weight loss programme will probably be individually developed for your pet and should include diet and lifestyle changes.”
The good news is that most obese dogs can be helped to lose weight and then go on to have a healthy lifestyle.
Regular exercise is key, but don’t ask too much of your dog too quickly, especially if he or she is not used to being active.
Start with short, regular walks and gradually build up the intensity and frequency from there.
When it comes to dieting, concentrate on giving your pet healthy food twice a day.
Cut down on treats and don’t be tempted to feed your dog leftovers from your own meals.
For more information on helping your dog to lose weight, read How To Implement Dog Diets now.