This post is written by our holistic veterinarian at "I and love and you", Dr. Angie Krause, DVM, CVA, CCRT.
Did you know that 30-40% of all dogs in the United States are overweight? Being overweight or obese has serious long term consequences for your pup. In this article, I am going to help you decide if your dog is overweight and what you can do about it.
How Do I Tell If My Dog is Overweight?
This can be a difficult question for many dog parents to answer. With coat and breed variation, there is no straightforward answer. Unfortunately, there is no chart or formula you can use to see your dog’s ideal weight. Veterinarians think of a dog’s ideal weight in terms of body condition. We first assess your dog’s body condition score, a number score given to your pet based on their current weight, and then estimate how many pounds your dog should weigh.
My quick and easy way to assess how much extra fat my patients carry is to find the last rib and move 3-4 inches down from the spine and see how much fat is under the skin. There should be a thin layer of fat here, but not much more.
Why Is My Dog Overweight?
Often the answer is simple: eating too many calories and burning too few calories. It’s easy to give in to your pup’s request for a food bowl refill when they beg. Extra treats or rawhides can also add calories quickly. Dogs that counter surf are often at high risk for weight gain as they will often get upwards of 1000-2000 extra calories with each score!
However, sometimes a hormonal imbalance, like hypothyroidism, can cause weight gain. While weight gain may be your dog’s only symptom, hypothyroidism is often accompanied by fatigue, sluggishness and hair loss. If you suspect that your pup has hypothyroidism, ask your vet to check both a total and free T4 at a minimum.
How Excess Weight Affects Your Dog’s Health
Excess weight can wreak havoc on your dog’s health. It increases inflammation in your dog’s body and predisposes them to disease such as diabetes and even cancer. Overweight and obese dogs are more prone to heart and lung disease. Increased weight on your dog’s joints can cause or worsen arthritis and increase back and neck pain. Being overweight can also significantly decrease your dog’s lifespan.
How to Help Your Dog Lose Weight:
- First, make sure your dog is otherwise healthy. A vet visit with lab work is a great first step. Your veterinarian can give you an idea of how many pounds your pup needs to lose.
- Reduce your dog’s calories. Your veterinarian can help you calculate how many calories your dog might need or you can calculate yourself here. Remember that an equation generates a ‘one size fits most’ answer and your dog may need less or more.
- Increase your dog’s exercise. Start slowly and gradually increase. For example, if your dog usually takes one 15 minute walk per day, don’t start with an hour walk. Add 5-10 minutes per week to avoid injuries. If your dog is overweight, avoid throwing balls that cause your dog to twist or pivot while catching. Overweight dogs are more prone to knee injuries that require surgery.
- Increase fiber and protein. Both of these macronutrients cause your dog to feel full for longer and may affect hormones related to obesity.
Thank you for taking such excellent care of your pup! They are so lucky to have you. If you have any questions, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.