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Spotting the Signs: Is My Dog Overweight?

by Geoff Works |

There’s no denying that overweight dogs are cute. After all, who wouldn’t love a fluffy ball of pure adorableness?

As much as chubby dogs are cute, being overweight will expose them to health complications like a dog knee injury, for example. As a responsible dog owner, you’ll need to keep an eye out for your dog’s weight. That’s why it pays to know the signs of an overweight dog.

In this blog, we’ll look at the signs of canine obesity. We’ll also discuss the steps you can follow to reduce its weight and how to keep your dog healthy. Let’s dive right in.

Is My Dog Overweight?

Evaluating a dog’s weight will depend on several factors, including breed and fur type. You can get a clearer picture about whether your dog is obese or not by following the Body Condition Score (BCS) chart.

The BCS chart is a visual and physical evaluation where your dog will be given a score between 1 to 9, with 1 being underweight and 9 being overweight. Your dog will be assessed based on its shoulders, ribs, spine, waist, and hips.

  • 1-3 (Underweight) – You can easily see your dog’s ribs, spine, and hip bones, and there isn’t any visible fat. If there’s also a noticeable loss of muscle mass, your dog is underweight.
  • 4-5 (Ideal Weight) – Your dog’s ribs, spine, and hip bones aren’t visible but can be easily felt when touched. It also has an hourglass figure when viewed from above and its waistline is visible.
  • 6-9 (Overweight) – Your dog’s ribs, spine, waist, and hip bones aren’t fully visible or easily felt. You’ll notice fat deposits on the neck, chest, spine, and base of the tail.

How to tell if your dog is overweight is easy. If your assessment falls between 1 and 3 or 6 to 9, it’s a sign for you to start creating a weight gain or loss plan for your furry friend. Discuss this plan with your vet to carefully determine the best step moving forward.

Vets will generally advise you to stick with small yet consistent changes in diet and lifestyle. For example, your vet might ask you to set a goal like losing 0.5% to 2% body fat each week.

Other signs to look for to know if you have an overweight dog include:

  • Decreased physical activity
  • Difficulty getting up after sitting or lying down
  • Wheezing even in a resting position
  • Struggling getting up on elevated surfaces like stairs
  • Exhaustion after minimal activity

What Factors Lead to an Overweight Dog?

1. Neutering

Neutering itself will not make your pet gain weight — the problem is that the surgery could cause hormonal imbalances that could lead to obesity. For instance, neutering can shift leptin hormone production, which influences appetite and metabolism.

If your dog undergoes this procedure and you fail to adjust its diet accordingly, it could lead to obesity. It also helps to increase physical activity to help burn more calories.

2. Diet

An improper diet will make your pet gain extra pounds. So try to add fiber-rich foods like celery or broccoli to its diet. Not only is this healthy, it can also control your dog’s urge to beg for food.

3. Social Influence

Dogs will increase their food intake when eating with other pets; a phenomenon called social facilitation. When this happens, another dog’s behavior could amplify or change the behavior in your own pet. So as much as possible, make sure your dog eats solo for the meantime. You can monitor their meals and space them out throughout the day.

How Can I Help My Overweight Dog?

Maintain a Healthy Diet

Looking for the best overweight dog diets? The best dog food for overweight dogs is one that’s well-rounded. You’ll need to make sure they’re getting enough protein, carbs, and fats in their diet. So make sure that you buy food with healthy meat such as beef, chicken, and turkey. You’d also want to choose foods with rice as the main grain because it’s easy on the digestive system.

Next, avoid feeding your dog one large meal a day. Instead, settle for small, frequent feeding. You can space out these meals three or four times a day so they don’t eat too much in one go. It also pays to ensure that your pet is consuming treats less than 10% of their total calorie intake.

Pay attention to your dog’s behavior as well and properly distinguish between begging and hunger. A pet begging for food doesn’t always mean they’re hungry. Most of the time, they’re only seeking attention. So keep track of mealtime — if you always give in to those puppy dog eyes, you’ll only reinforce their behavior of always begging for food.

Lastly, ease your dog into their new diet instead of making abrupt changes. For example, give your dog 75% of their previous diet and 25% of the new one on the first day. Gradually increase the ratio until they’ve fully adjusted to their new diet plan.

Get Enough Exercise

Increasing your dog’s physical activity will help them lose weight. However, always check in with your vet first before trying out a new type of exercise. Consider your dog’s age, weight, health condition, previous injuries, and other factors. Some strenuous exercises, for example, could lead to further complications.

Swimming is one of the best exercises for overweight dogs. This type of exercise puts less pressure on their joints, which could have been caused by obesity. The water also provides enough resistance to increase your dog's heart rate and shed those unwanted pounds.

If swimming isn’t an option, try to get your dog to exercise on soft surfaces like grass or sand. Playing on soft surfaces can help your pet avoid damaging the joints by supporting the extra weight.

Overcoming the Overweight Barrier

If you have an overweight dog, make sure to consult your vet before making any changes to its lifestyle. Discuss diet, weight plans, and exercise routines to determine the best way to help your furry friend.

And of course, the key factor here is to remain consistent by reinforcing good behavior. Over time, your efforts will pay off when your pet returns back to a healthy weight.

If you want more tips on how to keep your dog healthy and reduce their risk of injury, check out the Lick Sleeve blog.

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