Is Your Dog Overweight?

Originally published in the Rolesville Buzz
April 2013

Veterinarians said in recent study that obesity among dogs and cats is on the rise.

Researchers said 56 percent of dogs that they saw were overweight or obese. Many of the dog owners failed to acknowledge this fact. Only 22 percent accepted the idea that their pet was overweight or obese.

As in people, extra pounds place extra demands on virtually all the organs of a dog’s body. Unfortunately, disease and sometimes death are the consequences. The health risks to overweight dogs are serious, and every dog owner should be aware of them. Just a few are diabetes; joint, bone and ligament damage; heart disease; breathing problems; skin and coat problems; and a higher risk of cancer.

A simple way to check whether your dog is overweight or obese is the “rib test.” As your dog stands, place your hands on his rib cage and gently feel his ribs. Are they well padded? Is it hard to even feel the individual ribs? If so, your dog may have a weight problem.

Other tell-tell signs include fat on the lower back and base of tail, no waist when viewed from above, less stamina, decreased interest in physical activities, and difficulty jumping up on furniture or climbing stairs

The healthy path is to aim for a slow and steady weight loss. Loss of between 1 and 2 percent of total body weight per week is considered safe.

Plan a diet that is low in calories and fat. Look at the back of your dog food bag. Feed for the weight you want your dog to be, not the weight your dog currently is. If you give your dog treats throughout the day, take away some of the regular food you feed him to make up for the calories he is getting in treats. Or just resist the urge to give treats. Also, tell family members and friends about your dog’s weightloss program, and ask them to not feed him.

Eliminating fatty human foods is also a must. A cube of cheese, or the last bit of your burger might not seem like a lot of extra calories to you, but for your pet it will really add up quickly. You have to remember that 100 extra calories for your 2,000 calorie diet isn’t much, but 100 extra calories in a dog that has a 600 c a l o r i e diet is a lot.

If you must feed h u m a n foods, unsalted green beans make great treats. Canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie

mix) makes a great additive to dog food by increasing fiber and making your pet feel fuller.

Regular exercise is very important. Get your paunchy pooch up and moving – ideally at least 30 minutes every day – after checking with your veterinarian to make sure your dog is up to the challenge. Spending more time outdoors with your dog will do you both a world of good.

And most important, plan regular follow-up visits with your veterinarian, to monitor your dog’s progress and adjust the program as required.

Join Dirty Dogs Spa and Boutique on Tuesdays from 7 to 8 for “Lose Pounds with Hounds,” a weekly exercise program for pets and owners who want to drop a few winter pounds or those who want to enjoy a good walk with other pet owners. To join us, register at