Are you concerned about your dog's weight? If you suspect that he's getting a bit chubby, there's a good chance you may be right. But what can/should you do about it? Before we answer that, there's a more important question that needs answering...
Is your dog overweight?
Here are three easy ways to tell if your dog is chubbier than he ought to be:
- Standing above your dog, look down and check for a "waist." 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.
Still not sure if he’s overweight? Ask your vet.
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 dogs into two to four small meals a day. Do not use "free-choice" feeding.
- Weigh your dog at the same time of day at least once a week. Keep a weight record.
- Feed your dogs separately, one at a time. 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, to avoid their feeding him.
- Always provide plenty of clean, fresh water.
- Dogs should be taken to see their veterinarian at least once a year. The vet may recommend testing for certain diseases—such as decreased thyroid gland function—that can encourage weight gain and that may make weight loss difficult.
- 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."
Because weight and overall health are so tightly connected, it is always recommended that you consult with your veterinarian if you suspect your dog is overweight, and for expert guidance in weight management that’s personalized for your dog.