A recent study by Purina found that people aren’t alone in their struggle with obesity. Over 60% of household pets in the United States are considered overweight. Even more surprising, over half of dog owners with obese dogs think their pets have an ideal body condition. What they don’t realize is how being overweight affects their dogs in the long run.
Dog obesity, much like human obesity, can lead to a number of health issues including: diabetes, heat disease and high blood pressure, respiratory ailments, digestive disorders, and orthopedic problems due to the increased stress on bones and joints. An overweight dog also has an increased risk of cancer and liver problems. All of this is in addition to the decline in the quality of life that comes from dog obesity, such as lowered energy levels and stamina and less interest in activities.
You can tell if your dog is overweight with a simple assessment of his body condition.
First, place your hands on either side of your dog just behind his front legs and slide them back over your dog’s ribs. You should be able to feel the individual ribs but they shouldn’t be visible. If you can clearly see the ribs, then your dog is too thin. If you can’t feel your dog’s ribs at all, then he’s overweight.
Second, stand over your dog and look down over his body. He should have a defined waistline between his ribs and his hind legs. If your dog has no waist or the area between the ribs and the back legs puffs out, then it’s likely your dog is obese.
Third, look at your dog from the side. The waist area (between the ribs and the hind legs) should have a noticeable tuck or be lifted up and in. The amount of the tuck will depend on the breed of your dog, but at no point should the waist stick down beyond the ribs.
You can review this body condition chart from Purina for illustrations of an underfed dog, an overweight dog, and one with an ideal body condition.
To make sure you’re feeding your dog the proper amount of food, you should assess his body condition once a month. (You can include it as part of his grooming regimen so you don’t forget.) This is especially important for younger dogs. Just like people, dogs that are overweight when they’re young have a higher risk of dog obesity as they grow.
If you’re concerned about the risks of dog obesity or feel your dog is overweight, talk to your veterinarian right away. Your dog’s nutrition is the key to ensuring he lives a long, active life, and it’s in your hands.