Is your dog looking a little pudgier than usual? Don’t panic, because this is really quite common. Gaining a bit of weight and looking heavier is something pets and humans both face. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, a whopping 55.8% of dogs in the U.S. are either obese or overweight (2018). This added weight isn’t just unattractive; it can also lead to serious health problems for your pet, such as heart problems, arthritis, and diabetes.
If you’re thinking of ways to figure out whether your pup is overweight, then you’ve come to the right place. In this blog, we’ll teach you how to tell if your dog is overweight or not. We’ll also list some ways to keep your pet in shape, happy, and healthy.
How to Tell if Your Dog is Obese or Overweight
Here are a few ways to determine if your dog is indeed out of shape:
1. Take a Good Look at His Shape
First things first: check your dog’s body. What’s the shape like? This is the quickest and most straightforward way to find out if he is fatter than usual. Stand up and look at your pet from above. If he seems more rotund or oval-shaped, it’s an initial sign that he’s overweight. But if he looks like he has a toned and defined waist, especially around the rear area, with a straight build on his sides, you can bet he has a healthy weight.
2. Check The Ribs
Another first step that your vet will do is check the ribs. Take note of how the ribs feel and look like. The prominence will be a significant indicator if he has weight issues or not. When feeling them, make sure you observe how hard you need to press down before touching them. If you can feel and find them quickly, then your dog is fit. Overweight dogs’ ribs are difficult to feel because of the amount of fat surrounding them.
3. Observe Your Pet from the Side
Does your dog’s tummy swing? Does he have a saggy waist? These signs are characteristics of overweight dogs. If you look at him from the side, observe for a core that’s a bit raised than usual. A dog with a healthy weight should not have the same height as the chest. It should also be tucked up.
4. Does He Have Fat Pads?
When a dog has excess fat in his body, this is a telltale sign that he is overweight. Some pets have fat pads between their legs, making it look like they’re shuffling when walking. When you’re petting your dog, use the opportunity to inspect his hips. If he is overweight, he will probably have fat pads on the top of his hips.
5. Be Keen About His Behavior
Dogs who are above the average weight are commonly inactive. They spend a lot of their time being couch potatoes, scarfing down their food. You can also notice that he has difficulties with walking. Some seem out of breath when running - or even when merely walking - and moving around. These are more signs that the dog is heavier than average.
6. Have a Weigh-In
If you’re starting to become truly worried, the most definitive measure to take is to have your pet get checked at his vet. The vet will do a weigh-in and check for other signs if he’s overweight. There are different factors to consider, including your dog’s breed and size. A healthy weight for one breed will not be healthy for another. For instance, sighthounds almost always have visible ribs without being underweight.
The vet will do a thorough look at your dog’s body. He’ll use the Body Condition Chart to rank your pet’s body type by shape. The scores range from 1 to 9. A score of 1 means he’s very underweight, and a score of 9 means he’s exceptionally obese. It’s good to aim for a score in the middle, around 4 to 5.
Your vet will also give you tips and instructions to remedy the excess weight, if any, at home. This will include diet modifications, exercise recommendations, and more.
Why Your Dog Might Be Overweight
After having a vet appointment or determining that your dog is, in fact, overweight or obese based on the signs and symptoms we’ve laid down above, it’s smart to try to find out why this condition happened in the first place. Yes, we can proceed to treatment and lifestyle changes, but if you don’t know why he got overweight to begin with, the condition might just happen over and over. Here are some causes that you can take a look at.
Diet is probably the most obvious factor that most pet owners and vets will consider at the beginning. What your dog eats, and how much, can indeed affect their weight dramatically. It is known that eating kibble can give up to 1.2 times the chances of becoming overweight, compared to dogs who only eat a fresh food diet (this applies to cats, too). Also, pets who eat several but small-sized meals daily are proven to have a healthier weight than pets who eat one large meal daily.
When it comes to treats, you don’t have to say goodbye to rewarding your dogs. They don’t have a significant effect on your dog’s weight, as long as you give them sparingly (i.e., less than 10% of their daily caloric intake). It’s also important to consider what kind of treats you’re providing. For example, fresh vegetable treats are healthier for your dog and his weight, while dental treats can strongly impact his weight.
Age and Activity Level
Dogs in their middle ages (6-10 years) have a higher risk of being obese. Interestingly, this trend disappears once they get older.
Just like us, animals with a low activity level can result in increased weight. Make sure that your dog has enough physical activity daily. If he has less than 4 hours every week, he can be six times more likely to gain weight than dogs with over 7 hours of exercise per week.
Depressed dogs are more susceptible to weight gain, up to 4 times more likely than happy pets. Some signs of depression include inactivity, changes in their sleeping patterns and eating habits, and a sense of being withdrawn. If you’re unsure if your dog is depressed, it’s best to take him to your veterinarian.
If your pet has a pre-existing condition, this is another factor that you’d want to consider. For instance, dogs with joint pain will be less likely to move around and be physically active. Dogs with metabolic or hormonal issues can also preempt them to become overweight or underweight.
Also, as we mentioned earlier, dogs’ ideal body composition and weight will differ between breeds. So when you are unsure, the safest bet will always be to take him to your vet to address any concerns.
Severe Complications of Being Overweight
What if you have finally confirmed that your dog is overweight? What’s the next step to take? Sure, many people find heavy-set pets “cute” and adorable because they look cuddly. However, not losing those extra pounds can lead to life-threatening, serious health problems.
Dogs who stay overweight for a long time are at risk of developing complications such as:
🐶High blood pressure
🐶Some forms of cancer
🐶Difficulty with movement
Being overweight can be particularly difficult on some breeds more than others, such as dachshunds. They can suffer from back problems. Dogs from chubby brachycephalic breeds can also have difficulty with breathing. Bigger dogs can suffer from bone and joint issues, especially if they’re still growing.
More importantly, did you know that health complications and serious issues that develop from canine obesity can take away years off of your pet’s life? The good news is that this can still be avoided, and many of these severe conditions can be reversed by taking the necessary precautions and treatments.
How to Lose Weight for Dogs
We’re all too familiar with people wanting to lose weight. There are so many ways to do so. Diets, exercise routines, supplements, and other lifestyle changes. But what about dogs?
Once your vet confirms that your dog is overweight, the next step would be to begin a weight-loss plan. This can be achieved through two goals: decreasing your dog’s caloric intake and increasing the time he exercises.
We recommend starting with short walks (10-15 minutes) at the beginning of the day. Slowly increase the length of time you walk your dog every day. You can also gradually increase the speed of your walks over time. Don’t force your dog too fast to avoid injuries. Depending on how old your dog is and his breed, you can go up to a total of 2 hours a day (split into multiple walks). You can make these walks fun by rewarding and praising him with tons of attention. Other pet owners sign their dogs up for canine agility classes.
Get your vet’s professional advice when it comes to developing a diet plan for your dog. Decreasing how much he eats daily by 10% or so can already help with weight loss. Your vet can give you tips on making his diet high in fiber and low in calories. This can help your pup feel fuller for longer. With all this knowledge in mind, divide your pet’s meals into morning and evening sets. You’ll want to avoid your dog getting hungry later in the day.
Treats can also be reduced to a minimum. Dental treats and cookies contain calories, and decreasing how much you give your dog (or even possibly getting rid of them altogether) will help with weight loss. Instead, supplement your dog’s daily diet with healthy snacks like raw or steamed veggies that are safe for dogs (carrots, broccoli, celery, and cucumbers).