How to Tell if Your Dog is Overweight
You know your dog better than anyone—so you’ve likely already noticed if he has gained weight over a relatively short period. But extra bulk is a bit more difficult to recognize if he’s been slowly packing on the pounds over the years. Here are two fail-safe ways to determine if Fido is at the correct weight.
Feel his ribs: Run your hands along his sides toward the tail, feeling for his ribs. If you can find them beneath a thin layer of flesh, he is probably at the correct weight. If you can barely feel them under a layer of fat, he is likely overweight.
View him from the top and side: A visual inspection of your dog’s body is also important. Look at his body from above. Does he have an hourglass shape, with a slight narrowing behind the ribcage? Also view the lines of his body from the side. Does his stomach tuck up behind the ribcage? If the answer to both questions is yes, he’s likely at the correct weight. If his body has no definition from above or from the side, he is probably overweight.
What to do if Your Dog is Overweight
Take him to the vet: Have a vet examine your dog just to make sure that he isn’t experiencing a health problem. Some conditions, such as thyroid disease and Cushing’s disease, can cause rapid weight gain.
Cut back on meals: It’s quite possible that you’re feeding Fido too much at mealtimes. Often the serving size on commercial dog food labels advises a larger portion than is necessary for an individual dog. Every dog is different, and every dog also metabolizes food differently. With this in mind, start out with the recommended serving size but observe your dog carefully. If he looks like he’s gaining weight, slowly cut back on how much you’re feeding; if he appears to be losing weight, feed slightly more until he’s at the recommended weight for his breed. Then simply maintain the portion size that works for your dog.
Feed him on a schedule: Dogs who are “free-fed”—given access to their food bowls all day—are more likely to be overweight than those who eat on a regular schedule. To help keep Fido healthy, schedule his meals at consistent times and take his food bowl away after 10 to 15 minutes.
Provide healthy treats: Supplement correctly portioned meals with healthy, low-calorie treats, such as cut-up veggies, plain popcorn, or Nylabone Healthy Edibles. Make sure that you account for the calories in treats when feeding your dog his meals—these should be subtracted from his total caloric allowance for the day.
Exercise him: Of course, any diet plan should be accompanied by the proper amount of exercise. Keep your dog active by making sure that he gets a few daily walks and multiple lively play periods—but work up to this gradually. An overweight dog won’t be able to sustain this kind of energy level overnight.
Continue to assess your dog’s progress on a monthly basis to be sure that he’s at a healthy weight, and maintain, maintain, maintain when he has reached his goal! A nutritious diet, meals fed on a regular schedule, and exercise will add years to his life.