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How Can You Tell If Your Dog Is Overweight?

Everyone loves to occasionally spoil their dog with tasty treats, but if you think your pet is getting a bit too fat, there are some easy checks you can do yourself.

Obesity can lead to all sorts of health problems, most commonly back problems. Other weight induced problems include diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, difficulty breathing, increased risk of cancer and a dramatically decreased quality of life.

Dog overweight fat beagle
This Beagle has been eating too much, and it's really showing!

How To Tell If Your Dog Is Too Fat Or Too Thin

  • Check your dog’s ribs. You should be able to feel them fairly easily, but you should not be able to see them very clearly from a distance. There should only be a very thin layer of fat covering them. This visual check is trickier on shaggy dogs, so carry out the check when he’s wet, if possible.
  • Inspect your dog from above. His waist should be clearly visible, but you should not be able to see any protruding bones.
  • Look at your dog from the side. His abdomen should be tucked up, and there shouldn’t be any excess fat hanging down.
  • An obvious sign of an overweight dog is an excess of fat covering his ribs or tail bones. This will be visibly apparent, but you can also check by feeling with your hands. Something to note is that she-dogs are more susceptible to obesity than males, but in general you should always keep an eye on your dog’s weight.

Breeds prone to piling on the pounds include Basset Hound, Beagle, Boxer, Bulldog, Dachshund, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Newfoundland, Pug, and Rottweiler. Pay close attention to their food intake and weight to avoid obesity.

Note: Closely monitor the weight and food intake of a dog that has just been neutered, as they are have a heightened risk of becoming overweight.

Breeds Vizsla outdoors
A Vizsla looking in great shape

How To Reduce Your Dog’s Weight

We love our dogs no matter how they look, but if your Basset is becoming a barrel or your Pug a bit of a pudding, now is the time to start the doggie diet. If your dog is overweight it is important for his health that you make a few changes to his lifestyle. This is pretty straightforward, and boils down to food and exercise.

Dog with treat outdoors
Dog treats are fine, as long as they don't become the norm, and as long as they're not always this big!

Giving Your Dog Less Food

Okay, this one sounds blindingly obvious, but it's the easiest option, and always the best place to start. Begin by reducing the amount of food you are giving your dog by only a small amount. Don’t reduce his meal sizes dramatically, but make sure that he is eating less. You don’t want to upset your dog by suddenly halving his food intake. Dogs are not built for crash diets. The most effective method is to reduce the food slightly while getting him to be more active.

Quite often, the problem turns out to be all the extra titbits he’s been eating. If you ensure that he gets no scraps from the table, no odds and ends from the chopping board, no unfinished kids’ dinners, and no chips or cookies when the kids are snacking, you’ll often find that his weight goes down without any more intervention necessary.

A little less of what he fancies does him good

You also need to make sure the dog is not stealing food when unsupervised. Some get the knack of this, and it can be hard to dissuade them, so you simply need to make sure there’s nothing within reach.

Make sure the rest of your household know that you’re trying to reduce the dog’s weight, otherwise you might be confused when he doesn't actually make any progress, on account of the treats he’s still getting behind your back.

Exercise, Exercise, and more Exercise!

Hand in hand with the food control, take your dog for more frequent and interesting walks. Take him some place he’s never been before – there’ll be lots of new smells to seek out, and lots more excuses to run around exploring.

Dog running Shetland sheepdog
This Shetland sheepdog loves running, so that makes his exercise regime easy

If you are able to walk your dog off the lead in a safe place then he will get a lot more exercise. Training him to be obedient off lead is an important part of the whole dog-training process. Call him back every so often and given him a healthy snack as a reward so that he covers more distance. Your vet will be able to suggest some very tasty, yet healthy reward treats.

Professional training is always available if you struggle to recall your dog off the lead. If you are not able to let your dog off the lead – if you live in a busy city, for example – ensure that your walks are significantly longer so that he gets enough exercise. Your vet will be able to tell you how much exercise your dog should be getting. It will vary dramatically depending on breed, size, age and current fitness levels.

Dog swimming Golden retriever in pool
Golden retrievers love water, and they're very good swimmers

Swimming is another very effective way of fighting the flab. A five minute swim can be the equivalent of a five mile walk on a lead. It also helps to increase your dog’s strength, as well as lowering body fat and increasing the flexibility in his joints.

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Gopi, 6 February 2020

Awesome article, Thanks for sharing!

Roxane, 23 January 2019

Very informative and interesting. although I've fed my other dogs raw meat, I've always wondered if it was enough food and nutrients.