How to Determine if Your Dog Is Overweight

The obesity epidemic in America is not just limited to the human population. According to the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention, 53% of dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Just as in humans, being overweight or obese can drastically reduce life expectancy. A study done by Purina showed that dogs allowed to eat excess calories, thus becoming overweight for their entire lives, lived an average of almost 2 years less than the control group who remained at ideal body weight.[1] Being overweight causes most of the same problems faced by human family members, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, kidney disease, and many types of cancer. The following guidelines can be used to help you determine if your dog is in the danger zone.


  1. 1
    Have your dog evaluated by his veterinarian. If your vet does not address his weight, ask specifically if your pet is at an ideal weight. There is a scoring system that veterinarians use to help us determine a dog's healthy body condition.
  2. 2
    Try a " see and feel" type assessment. You should be able to feel ribs without a layer of fat that you have to push through, but you also don't want to be able to see the ribs. There should be a tuck in his abdomen when viewed from the side, with no sagging fat or flab. Finally you should see a waist behind his ribcage as you view him from above, sort of an hour glass figure.
  3. 3
    Consider what they're eating. A lot of weight gain is due to the addition of treats to your dog's regular diet. Did you know that most dogs need an average of 25 calories per pound of body weight daily? That means a 20 lb dog needs only 500 calories a day. A medium Milkbone dog biscuit has 40 calories, so if she gets 2 to 3 of these in addition to her normal meals, you can see how the calories add up.
  4. 4
    Think about whether they're getting enough exercise. Exercise is the other key factor in helping your dog lose or maintain his weight. Brisk walking is the ideal method, using a halter or walking harness, never a choke collar, and preferably not any kind of collar as these may restrict or damage his windpipe (trachea). A brisk, 30 minute walk most days would be ideal, and that means he doesn't get to stop and "read the newspaper" on this walk. You can take a slow stroll around the neighborhood for that purpose!


  • All of us love to give our dogs treats and rewards, so consider veggies as treats. Lots of dogs love baby carrots, pea pods, cukes, broccoli, zucchini, or any low calorie veggie she may prefer. The exceptions are onions, grapes, and raisins, as we know these can be toxic to dogs. Also large amounts of garlic, as these are in the same family as onions.


  • Be sure to consult your pet's veterinarian for a complete physical exam and blood tests, as well as recommendations on what and how much to feed. There are some health issues that can contribute to weight gain, such as hypothyroidism and other hormone imbalances that should be addressed or your efforts may be futile, as well as worsen the health of your dog if they go untreated.
  • The most important thing to remember is your dog's health, as well as your own health, is our responsibility. Your pets depend on you to provide them with all the love and care they need, so be proactive in helping them to live a long and healthy life.

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Categories: Canine Health