Weight gain is gradual, so you may not—at first—notice the signs. And even if you suspect that, perhaps, your dog has been getting a little chubby, it may be hard to accurately judge if your dog is truly overweight. Here is a simple, two-step way to identify if your dog has a weight problem.
- Standing above your dog, look down and check for a bulging "waist" behind the rib area. Dogs at the proper weight will have a visible indentation behind their ribs.
- Place both hands, palms down, lightly on your dog's ribs. You should be able to easily feel and count the ribs, but they shouldn't be sticking out. If you cannot feel the ribs, chances are your dog is overweight. Overweight dogs also commonly have pouches of fat in the groin area between the hind legs. By the way, if you can see his ribs, chances are your dog is underweight.
What to do if your dog is overweight
Obesity is probably the most common nutritional disease among adult dogs in Western countries, and excess weight creates a high risk for other medical problems. If your dog has been diagnosed as overweight, implementing the following tips can support healthy, successful weight loss:
- Cut out all treats and table scraps during the weight loss period.
- Because the primary reason for obesity in dogs is overeating, you should divide the daily food allowance for your dog into two to four small meals a day. Do not use "free-choice" feeding. And be sure to measure the amount of food you are feeding your dog. You may also want to consult your veterinarian for recommendations about a weight-loss diet for your dog.
- Weigh your dog at the same time of day at least once a week. And keep a record of his weight so you can track his progress—or lack of it.
- If you have more than one dog and feed them at the same time, keep an eye on them as they eat—and remove their bowls when each dog is done. You may also consider feeding your dogs in separate rooms, because a dieting dog may move to the bowl of his housemate to get more food.
- Feed dogs before you eat and keep them in another room during meals to discourage begging.
- Restrict your dog's unsupervised outdoor activity so that he may not scavenge for food when outside. Make sure that indoor and outdoor garbage cans have secure covers.
- Tell your neighbors about your dog's weight loss program so they won't feed him.
- Always provide plenty of clean, fresh water.
- Dogs should be taken to see their veterinarian at least once a year.
- Exercise your dog on a regular basis, starting slowly with short activity periods, and gradually increase the exercise time. Begin with walking and, when your pet shows signs of increased fitness, move to games that require running, such as "fetch."