Is Your Dog Overweight? How to Tell and What to Do

Obesity is a common problem in dogs. Between 25% and 40% of dogs are overweight, but often, owners don’t realize it until they take their dog to the veterinarian for another reason. Yet, even vets can’t tell if a dog is obese by their weight alone. Ideal weight varies by breed, and quite widely within breeds. In short, there’s no ideal healthy weight chart for all dogs!

The good news is that if your dog is overweight, there are a number of ways to help them reach a healthy weight. Don’t underestimate the power of daily walks and a weight management dog diet!

Is Your Dog Overweight?

Can you feel individual ribs easily? Is your dog’s abdomen slightly tucked up when viewed from the side? That’s a sign your dog is at their ideal weight.

If you can't feel the ribs easily, your dog has no waist and their abdomen drags, your pup is carrying extra weight. Your veterinarian can help you further evaluate your dog’s condition and determine their ideal weight.

What Causes Canine Obesity?

Dogs gain weight for the same reason people do: They eat more calories than they use. Today’s dogs share another problem with their human parents: lack of activity. Many pet parents work all day and are too tired to play with their dog afterward.

Dogs’ metabolisms might slow as they age or after they’re spayed or neutered, which means they require less food. Another common reason for weight gain is frequently eating high-calorie treats. Sometimes more than one family member is feeding the dog, and the dog sure isn’t telling!

Other factors that could contribute to canine obesity include:

  • Breed and sex
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Hyperadrenocorticism
  • Hypothyroidism

Your Dog’s Weight Management Program

If your dog is overweight, it’s time to implement a weight-management regimen. Before beginning any weight loss program with your dog, make sure to discuss it with your veterinarian.

If you usually feed one large meal a day or keep food available at all times, try a different dog-feeding schedule by dividing the daily ration into several small meals — at least two meals a day. It takes energy to digest food, and dividing your dog’s daily ration into separate feedings will help. If your dog leaves any food in their bowl, pick it up 30 minutes after each meal.

Choose the Right Food for Healthy Weight Loss

Your goal is to help your dog be healthier, so select their food carefully. Some diet foods just add high levels of fiber to help the dog feel full. This strategy, however, can result in reduced digestibility of important nutrients, large stool volume, frequent trips to the backyard and decreased skin and coat condition because the dog isn’t getting enough fat and nutrients.

Find a food with appropriate fiber levels, such as IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Adult Healthy Weight, to keep your dog’s digestive system working properly. Weight-control food should have high-quality protein so your dog doesn’t lose muscle tone, plus essential fatty acids to help keep their skin and coat healthy throughout the dieting process.

After your dog reaches their ideal weight, select a maintenance food to keep their weight steady.

Tips for Supporting Your Dog’s Weight Loss

Losing weight isn’t easy. Changing habits is the key. Here are some ways you can help keep your dog on track:

  • Determine who feeds the dog what and when. (Don't be embarrassed to admit you give your dog treats. Dogs are expert beggars.)
  • Substitute affection for treats. Give a pat or throw a ball when he noses your hand.
  • Take your dog for a walk more often. Even 10 minutes a day can help.
  • If your dog is more than 15% overweight, your veterinarian might recommend a special food. Diet foods should be low in fat (under 20% of calories from fat).

A total weight-management program can lead to successful weight loss in overweight or obese dogs. Remember: Your support is essential to your dog’s weight-control success.