Dogs are cute, no matter what they look like. Big, small, fluffy, sleek — in our book, they’re all good pups. As cute Fluffy is, though, have you ever stopped to consider how accurate her name is? If she’s got some bulk on her, make sure it’s from her fluffy coat, and not unneeded pounds. While a squishy, rotund dog can be cute and cuddly, extra weight can also cause a lot of health problems for your furry friend. And because dog breeds differ so widely, it can be hard to determine whether or not your pup is a healthy weight, and what to do to help them lose unneeded LB’s. We’re here to help: Keep reading to discover how to calculate your dog’s ideal weight, plus how to help your dog lose weight she doesn’t need.
The Dangers of Dog Obesity
Your dog knows what she’s doing when she gives you those puppy-dog eyes. It’s almost impossible not to give her a piece of cheese or a bite of your bacon at mealtime! And while she definitely deserves the occasional high-value reward, indulging her too often causes more harm than good. Unhealthy eating and a lack of exercise can lead to canine obesity, which poses several potential health risks, like heart disease, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and even early death, says the UK Kennel Club.
How To Tell if Your Dog is Overweight
Depending on your dog’s breed, coat length, and the severity of her weight problem, it may or may not be difficult to determine whether or not she’s at a healthy weight. There are a few behavioral and physical signs you can look for. Find them below.
Behavioral Signs of Obesity
The UK Kennel Club notes that the following behaviors may be a sign that your dog is suffering from excess weight:
- A refusal to play or move
- Lagging behind on walks
- Reluctance to go on walks
- Excessive panting
- Needing help getting into and out of cars
While these are all potential indicators of canine obesity, it’s important you bring your dog to the vet right away if she’s not behaving normally. They can tell you whether or not your dog has a more serious health problem.
Physical Signs of Obesity
If Spot is charmingly chunky or big-boned, but you aren’t sure if she’s actually overweight, there are some physical signals to check for. If your dog has gained too much weight, her face may also look rounder and larger, and her tummy may sag, says the UK Kennel Club. You may additionally not be able to see her ribs. You might be thinking, If I can see her ribs, she isn’t eating enough! But while it’s true her ribs shouldn’t be protruding, they should still be slightly visible (if she has a short coat) and tangible. Here’s a quick rib test from the pet pros at Zukes.
- Run your hands along the side of your dog’s rib cage, behind her front legs.
- If you can feel the contours of her ribs without pushing through her fat, your dog is most likely a healthy weight.
- If you have to push your fingers through fat deposits in order to find her ribs, she may be overweight.
- If you can feel the sharp edges of her ribs, she may be underweight.
Whether you suspect that your dog is over or underweight, it’s important to seek confirmation from your veterinarian in order to develop a treatment plan that best suits your dog.
How To Determine Your Dog’s Ideal Weight
There are few other animals on the planet that vary as widely within the same species as dogs. That’s why there’s no hard-and-fast rule for how much your dog should weigh — a chihuahua and a Great Dane will have different needs. Cue the Body Condition Score, or the BCS, which is a 9-point scale that veterinarians use to convey how healthy a dog’s weight is. It’s based on four criteria, says PetMD:
- How apparent the dog’s waist is
- How much muscle mass is present
- How much excess fat is beneath the skin
- How obvious the dog’s abdominal tuck (or the natural sloping from their tummy to their chest) is
A four or five on the scale indicates a healthy weight, with lower numbers meaning the dog is underweight, and higher numbers indicating obesity. Click here for an example of a BCS scoring chart from the American Animal Hospital Association.
Try to determine your dog’s BCS at home, but remember that this is not an official diagnosis, and that your veterinarian can tell you for certain what your dog’s ideal weight and score are.
How To Help a Dog Lose Weight
We wish there was a magic way to snap our fingers and make our dogs their healthiest weight. (It’d be great if that worked for humans, too!) But unfortunately, it’s the same across species: Hard work in the form of diet and exercise is the best way to reach a healthy weight. Once your veterinarian has given you an official statement on whether or not your dog is overweight, they will likely recommend some of the following practices.
An Exercise Regimen
Being consistent with exercise is good for your dog — and for you. Take her on daily walks, recommends the Animal Humane Society, maintaining a brisk pace at the beginning to maximize fat burn. Keep an eye on your pup’s exhaustion level to make sure she isn’t over-tired, and keep her hydrated along the way.
A Healthy Diet
Double-check with your veterinarian to see what portion size and food type is best for your dog. Some dog food packaging has charts that indicate ideal portion sizes based on your dog’s weight, but they’re not always accurate. It’s also a good idea to feed your dogs separately if you have more than one, says the Animal Humane Society — and to stick to meal times instead of leaving food out all the time. These habits can help keep your dog from overeating.
Weight loss doesn’t happen overnight — in humans or dogs. The Animal Humane Society notes that it may take up to six months to see a change in your dog’s weight. So, be patient with your pup and give her the care she needs, even when that means ignoring her puppy-dog eyes under the dinner table.
If your dog is overweight, you may feel guilty restricting things she loves. Keep in mind that she loves nothing more than being your pet — and helping her lose weight may keep her around longer. What’s a better treat than that?
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