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Image of an obese dog.

Is Your Dog Overweight? How to Prevent Obesity in Dogs

This post is sponsored by Dexas International, creators of some of my favorite travel and camping essentials for dogs. I only work with brands I use and would personally recommend, and I think Dexas rocks. I am not a veterinarian, nor am I a veterinary nutritionist. What I am is a passionate dog mom who loves to research.

This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase from the links on this page.

In recent years, the Internet has glorified obese dogs, featuring “cute” images and videos of “chonks.” The truth is, if your dog is overweight, it is a serious health condition and not at all cute or funny. 

In fact, it’s pretty freaking unfunny (shout out to all The Office fans out there!)

Here’s an eye-opening statistic for you: According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, in 2018, an estimated 56% of dogs in the United States were overweight or obese. 

If you have an overweight dog, then it is imperative that you address the health problem right away to avoid additional health concerns.

A profile image can help determine whether you're dealing with an overweight dog. Your dog should have a tuck at their hips and the ribs should be easily palpable.

How to Tell if Your Dog is Overweight

It can be tricky to determine if a dog is overweight on some dogs, especially those with thick fur, but the following section will walk you through the process of identifying whether your dog could stand to lose a few extra pounds.

Using a body condition score chart, you can compare your dog’s appearance to the images and get an idea whether your dog could stand to lose some weight.

The scale ranges from 1 to 9, with 1 being too skinny and 9 as obese. An ideal weight for your dog falls between 4 and 5.

Dog Body Condition Score Chart Explained

The body condition score chart groups dogs into three different categories: Too Thin, Ideal, and Too Heavy.

1-3 = Too Thin

Dogs that fall between 1 and 3 are labeled as too thin. These dogs show visible bone prominence in the vertebrae, ribs, and pelvis, lack palpable fat, and display loss of muscle mass.

4-5 = Ideal Weight

This is the sweet spot you should aim for your dog. The dog’s ribs are easily palpable, with minimal fat covering. Some visibility of the ribs is ok. The waist has a noticeable tuck. If you look at your dog from the top view, you’ll see an hourglass shape.

6-9 = Overweight

Dogs that fall within this range of the scale are considered overweight. The ribs are not palpable and are covered by a layer of fat. There is no noticeable tuck in the dog’s waist, and with abdominal distention in very obese dogs.

Because each breed differs in size, and mixed breeds vary greatly, using this method, rather than aiming for a number on the scale, can be more helpful in determining your dog’s ideal weight.

Use a measuring cup to portion your dog's food appropriately and prevent weight gain.

Causes of Obesity in Dogs

Overfeeding

As the humanization of pets increases, dog owners are increasingly spoiling their dogs, often in the form of extra food, such as high-calorie treats and human food. Frequent treats will also tack on extra weight.

Dogs can also be master manipulators, feigning hunger at any time. My mom would always tell me how hungry Sora looked, and I’d respond that she will always eat if given the chance.

If my mom had fed Sora every time that she “looked hungry” I would have had a fat dog on my hands.

Use a proper measuring cup, like the collapsible KlipScoop by Dexas, to feed your dog according to the guidelines on their food bag. Often, dog owners will use a drinking up. This is not the same as a measuring cup!

The amount listed on the bag of food is merely a starting point. If your dog is obese, feed them less. If your dog is too skinny, feed them more. If your dog is highly active, like mine is, then feed them more. Use the guide from the chart above to determine how much you should be feeding them.

Low activity levels

Just like humans, if a dog isn’t getting enough exercise, they can become overweight. Your dog doesn’t need to run 10 miles a day (even if they have a ton of energy), but they do need daily physical activity.

The ideal amount depends on the breed and age of your dog. If you are an active person, then pick a dog breed that loves to run. If you’re fairly sedentary, then opt for a breed that requires less exercise.

Need some ideas for fun outdoor activities to enjoy with your dog? I’ve got you!

Medical Conditions

Weight gain can be a sign of underlying health issues, such as hormonal disorders like Cushing’s Disease or an under-active thyroid. 

If your dog appears otherwise healthy and you know they are getting enough exercise and an appropriate diet, take them to the vet to determine if there is another reason for the weight gain.

Age

As dogs get older, they have a higher tendency to become overweight. Part of the culprit is that dog owners retire their dogs from physical activity too early, thinking their dog is too tired. 

However, I believe that senior dogs can and should continue with regular exercise, it just needs to be amended to fit their abilities.

Measuring out your food with a measuring cup, like this one from Dexas, along with exercise, can help prevent an overweight dog.

Common Health Issues in Overweight Dogs

When a dog is overweight, the additional burden placed on organs can significantly impact a dog’s quality of life. Obesity can lead to a number of health problems, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Death
  • High blood pressure
  • Respiratory disease
  • Heatstroke

Dog Breeds Prone to Obesity

While any breed of dog can become overweight, there are certain breeds that have a higher propensity to gain weight. Small dogs in particular are notoriously overweight because pet parents don’t think they need to exercise as much.

If you have one of the following breeds, make sure to keep an eye on their weight.

  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Pugs
  • Dachshunds
  • Basset Hounds
  • Beagles
Feed your dog quality food, making adjustments based on their activity level. Consult a veterinary nutritionist if necessary!

How to Help Your Dog Lose Weight

Acknowledging that your dog has a weight problem is the first step because it means that you are now open to tackling the issue and dedicated to getting your pet back on a healthy plan.

The two obvious keys to shed excess weight in overweight pets are fewer calories and exercise. They often go hand-in-hand, but it’s not always so simple.

Measure Out or Weigh Your Dog’s Food

As I mentioned above, use a measuring cup or scale to weigh your dog’s daily portions. This will prevent them from overeating. Remember that the amount listed on packaging is a suggestion, based on a dog’s weight range. 

To learn your dog’s ideal weight, talk to your veterinarian.

Feed a Quality Diet

The type of foods you feed your dog can play a factor in their weight, just the same as it does for humans. Low quality or high-calorie foods will lead to weight gain. Look for dog food  that includes higher protein.

I personally feed my dog a mix of raw from Northwest Naturals and Only Natural Pet MaxMeat.

Be aware that while you’re cutting calories, you want to ensure that your dog is getting the right vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids.

Get the Whole Family on Board

It is a good idea to hold a discussion with the entire family to ensure that everyone is on board with the plan and understand that they can’t sneak the dog treats or table scraps. 

Crate training and the place command would be very useful skills for this situation, especially for those with small children or people like my mom who feel sorry for the dog. 

Consult a Veterinary Nutritionist

If cutting back on calories and increasing exercise is not doing the trick, then consider enlisting the help of a veterinary nutritionist. 

They will be able to determine potential causes of the weight gain and adjust your dog’s diet and put them on a healthy weight loss plan to achieve their ideal body weight.

Is Your Dog Overweight Pinterest Image

Jen Sotolongo

Hello! I'm Jen. I'm a writer, photographer, dog mom, and outdoor enthusiast. When I'm not writing about awesome ways to get outside with your dog, I'm probably out for a long trail run. I also fancy myself a pretty decent vegan cook, and am always happy to whip up a batch of cookies for friends. I am based in the Pacific Northwest and I never leave home without my dogs.

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