Author: Taylor A Ritz
What says “I love you” to your dog more than food?
We all love to share the excitement our dogs feel when they come running at the sound of the treat jar. We use food to connect with them, motivate their training, and provide rewards for a job well done.
Just like with us though, too much of a good thing can have unfavorable consequences. Too many treats or not enough exercise can quickly lead to a chat with your veterinarian about your dog’s weight.
So how can you know if your dog has a healthy weight or not?
Health Issues From Excess Weight
1 in 5 dogs in the United States is considered obese, and there is a good reason veterinarians are quick to tell you your dog is overweight; this issue is one of the leading health-related issues in dogs.
Being overweight can lead to any of the following conditions:
- High blood pressure
- Joint injuries
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
Being overweight also causes dogs to have less energy and motivation, leading to further increases in weight. This is a slippery slope for your dog that could lead to even more weight gain and an increased likelihood of secondary concerns.
How to determine if your Dog is Overweight
Maintaining a healthy weight for your canine companion is paramount to them leading a healthy and happy life. Not only that, but a healthier dog is less expensive for you, so keeping your dog’s weight at an optimum level helps you and your wallet in the long run too.
One resource available to you is weight charts. Especially for purebred dogs, one can consult a chart with breed standards to determine whether their dog is at an acceptable weight. Note that these charts are only helpful for dogs that are purebred and also within breed standards for other factors such as height. For example, if you have a border collie that is unusually tall, chances are their weight will not fall into the average breed range either.
Here are some examples of average dog weights by breed:
If you don’t have a purebred dog, you’ll need to utilize alternative methods for ascertaining whether or not your dog may be overweight.
Body Condition Score
Body condition score is a 5-point scale for categorizing a dog or cat’s body shape. It focuses on the areas your pets are most likely to store fat on their bodies to evaluate their overall condition. This scale can be utilized for dogs or cats of any breed or type and is a standardized system utilized by most veterinarians.
The point system is assigned as follows:
- Very Thin: Ribs, spine, and hip bones are easily seen from a distance. Little muscle or observable body fat. Emaciated and bony in appearance.
- Underweight: Ribs and spine are easily felt. The individual has an obvious “waist” when viewed from above and a clear abdominal tuck. Usually thin, lean, or skinny in appearance.
- Ideal: Ribs and spine are easily felt but not readily observed. There is a waist when viewed from above and the abdomen is raised when viewed from the side. Normal and muscular in appearance.
- Overweight: Ribs and spine are hard to feel underneath fat deposits. The abdomen sags and there are fat deposits on the hips, the base of the tail, and the chest. Very little observable waist from above.
- Obese: Large fat deposits are visible over the chest, back, base of the tail, and hindquarters. The chest and abdomen may appear distended or swollen. No visible waist when viewed from above and no tuck to the abdomen.
Gauging your dog’s fitness level takes some practice, but guides like these can help you set a baseline for your pet to help them achieve optimum health. If you still aren’t sure if your dog is overweight, consult your veterinarian and ask any residual questions you may still have.
Getting Your Dog Back In Shape
Whether you suspect your dog is overweight or you’ve been told by your vet that your dog should shed a couple of pounds, there are relatively easy ways to address this.
Food is obviously the number one problem when it comes to overweight pets. Some owners leave food out at all times to let their pet graze, others simply don’t measure how much food their dog is getting.
Setting meal times and strict amounts of food will help your dog achieve a healthy weight. Try to feed your dog around the same time each day and control portions by using a measuring cup.
If you’re unsure how much to feed your dog each day, check the information on the bag: most commercial dog foods have feeding instructions based on weight. In the case of an overweight dog, do not feed to the amount recommended for their current weight, feed the amount recommended for their goal weight.
Portion control is vital when it comes to shedding those pounds but strict feedings alone may not help your dog achieve that ideal weight. Daily exercise is important not only for the physical health of your pup but for their mental well-being also. Especially if your dog is overweight, begin exercise regimens slowly, gradually increasing length and intensity. Make exercising fun for your dog and you will watch the pounds melt off.
The Way To A Happier, Healthier Dog
Though the task may seem daunting, helping your dog reach a healthier weight is doable with a little commitment to a schedule. Don’t let those puppy-dog eyes derail you into overfeeding; a healthier weight for your dog will create a happier, healthier dog in the long run.