How to Tell if Your Dog Is Overweight
Before you start a diet plan for your dog, you need to know if they areÂ really overweight. Try these simple do-it-yourself tests:
Feel theirÂ backbone and ribs. “If the spine and ribs are difficult to feel, the dog is overweight,” says David Gonsky, DVM. Hes the medical director of West Loop Veterinary Care in Chicago.
Look at themÂ from the side. Their stomach should be raised. A sagging stomach is a sign that they are carrying extra pounds.
Get a view from the top. Looking down at them from above, you should see a “waist,” or inward curves, between the back of their rib cage andÂ hips.
Try these tips to help your dog shed pounds and get healthier.
Exercise more. Exercise burns calories and reduces appetite. Take them for an extra walk or start a game of fetch.
Be playful. Toss around balls, Frisbees, squeaky toys, and other dog toys to get them excited about moving around. Shoot for 10 to15 minutes of exercise, twice a day.
Reduce portion size. “Table food, treats, or even just generous portions of regular meals can lead to weight gain,” Gonsky says.
If hes eating large servings of food, cut them down a little each day until you reach an appropriate portion size.
“Use an actual measuring cup to measure your pets food, not just a cup out of the cabinet,” says Thomas Watson, DVM. Hes a veterinarian at Carolinas Veterinary Medical Hospital in Charlotte, N.C.
Cut back on treats. You may not realize how many extra calories youre giving your dog when you toss them a treat.
“Reducing the number of treats given in a day greatly helps,” Watson says.
Give them half of what theyÂ used to, and then reduce it even more over a few days. Or swap typical dog treats for healthy foods like carrots, green beans, or rice cakes. “These healthy treats are low in calories and can be beneficial to your dog,” Gonsky says.
Feed themÂ more often. “Multiple small meals are better than one large meal a day,” Watson says. Thats because it keeps your dogs blood sugar level steadier throughout the day, so their body is less likely to store extra calories.
Dont leave food out. Many dogs dont know how to self-regulate. Instead of leaving dog food out all day, feed your pup at specific times. After about 15 minutes, take away whatevers left over. But keep theirÂ water dish out all day so they have plenty of fresh drinking water, Gonsky says.
Choose the right food. Instead of buying any over-the-counter “light” dog food, ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. They know your pup and can determine the best ingredients and portion size.
Keep them out of the kitchen. Table scraps and food that accidentally falls onto the floor can be tempting and tack on pounds. Keep them in another room while you cook and eat so theyll be less fixated on your food and wont take in extra calories.
Remember the age-old formula. “The bottom line for pets and weight is the same as it is for people: diet and exercise,” Gonsky says. When in doubt, keep this rule of thumb in mind.
What are the signs your dog is overweight?
According to our survey of 550 pet parents, only 10% believed that less than 1 in 4 pets are overweight. Similarly, we found that only 14% of Ollie pet parents think their dog is overweight and in need of weight management plan, when the reality is that 45% of Ollie’s small dog pack is already overweight. These disconnects draw attention to the fact that many pet parents are in the dark about how much their pet should weigh and what signs to look for in their pets.
Some of the signs your pet might be putting on too much weight include lower energy levels and desire to play, difficulty finding and feeling their ribs, and a low-hanging belly — particularly in smaller dogs.
Some vets use what is called a body condition score. This scale from 1-5 or 1-9 measures a dog’s body type. In both systems dog who are a “1” are considered malnourished, while dogs who are a “5” or a “9” are considered obese. If your vet does discuss this score with you – make sure you know which scale is being used. A 5/9 is generally considered ideal and a 5/5 is considered an issue.
Tips for helping your dog lose weight sustainably
If your dog does need to lose a few pounds, you want to make sure they do it the right way. These tips will set you both up for success.
If you have noticed your pup is packing on the pounds meet with your vet before making any dietary changes.
Your vet will be able to help you rule out any underlying medical issues that could be causing weight gain. Some common examples include thyroid conditions, gut issues or something more serious like a tumor.
Once your vet has determined your pup is otherwise healthy, he or she will be able to discuss a good healthy target weight range for your dog and a reasonable time to get there. Like yo-yo or crash dieting isn’t good for you, the same goes for your pup. There is no shortcut to getting your pup back to good health.