Dog Obesity: Causes & How To Tell If Your Dog Is Overweight

How To Tell If Your Dog Is Overweight

An overhead view of a purebred Dachshund eating from a stainless steel pet food dish standing on a hardwood floor inside a home with blue walls. She is a short haired dappled piebald color of brown and white. She is a rescue and living happily ever after with her new mom, her name is Pretzel.

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  • Check the ribs. Yes, there should be a little fat over them, but you should be able to feel them. If you can’t find them, you’ve got a problem. In fact, feel around for the major bones all over your dog’s body–legs, spine, shoulders, hips. If you have trouble finding any of them, then your pet has a bit too much padding.
  • Check the breathing. If your dog breathes heavily even after little or no exertion, or has a hard time recovering from a short walk or play session, there could be a problem.
  • Check the base of the tail. A little fat should cover this area, but if you can’t feel the bones at all, you dog is very overweight.
  • Look down. Seriously, check your pet’s silhouette from above. Can you find a waist? Can you tell where the ribs end and the hips begin?
  • Check the “abdominal tuck.” The tuck is the area behind the ribs. It should be smaller around than the chest. How much smaller depends on the breed, and the more deep-chested your dog, the greater the difference. A dog who’s too thin will have a very severe tuck, while an obese dog may have no tuck at all.

When To Call Your Veterinarian

measuring the circumference of the dog

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If you give your pet a good once-over and think there’s a weight problem, make an appointment with your vet. The doctor will give your dog a thorough physical, do some blood tests, and ask questions about eating habits and frequency. Then the vet can help you build a realistic, gradual, and low-risk weight loss plan.

The plan will almost certainly include:

  • Reduced caloric intake, probably using a special dog food formulated for weight loss
  • Less food each day
  • Increased fiber or water intake
  • More exercise

You might want to consider keeping a log of food intake–including treats–and exercise, so you can monitor your pet’s progress. You might even have to get a little obsessive, measuring the exact amount of foods offered and noting every treat.

No matter what the plan, be prepared for it to take a while. Inducing weight loss at a rate faster than two percent of total body weight per week is more likely to reduce lean tissue and trigger a rebound weight gain.

Keep in mind that you’re in this for the long haul. Most dogs may take as long as long as eight to twelve months to reach their goal weights, and even then, they’ll need to keep up the diet and exercise to maintain their new, healthier shape.


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