In industrialized countries, multiple studies have shown that at least one in every five dogs is obese. This likelihood of obesity in dogs can lead to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and arthritis, as well as many other chronic conditions. Therefore, monitoring your dog's weight and recognizing when he may be overweight is crucial in making sure he doesn’t suffer from poor health.
How likely is it that my dog is overweight?
There are certain factors that may predispose your dog to gaining weight and becoming obese. For example, some breeds—such as Labrador Retrievers—are more likely to gain weight than others, and small breeds in particular are at high risk.
Female dogs are more likely to gain weight, and the frequency of obesity in dogs increases as they age. Dogs who were obese or overweight as puppies are also more likely to become obese adult dogs than those who were a lean or healthy weight.
If your dog has been spayed or neutered, he’s more likely to gain weight than an intact dog due to the hormonal changes incurred by sterilization. Your dog's lifestyle is also a contributing factor; if he stays indoors a lot and is fed table scraps, he’s more likely to gain weight.
How can I tell if my dog is overweight?
The first step to understanding whether your dog is overweight is a preventative one. By weighing him regularly, recording his weight, and taking him for checkups with your vet, you'll get a clearer picture of his weight gain or loss over his lifetime.
Your vet will be able to tell you your dog's ideal weight based on sex, breed, and age. If your dog is more than 20 percent over his ideal weight, he is classified as obese. As an example, a dog whose ideal weight is 110 pounds would be considered obese if he weighed 132 pounds.
A simple test you can do at home to determine whether your dog is overweight or obese is to try to feel his ribs through his fur and body tissue. If you can feel his ribs but they're not prominent, your dog is a healthy weight. If it's impossible for you to find and feel his ribs, your dog is overweight.
How do overweight dogs behave?
You might also recognize your dog is overweight from a change in his behavior. He might be lethargic and display a lack of effort when it comes to playing games or being active. When you take your dog on walks, he may become breathless very easily or even stop attempting to walk altogether, because he’s either in pain or tired. You’ll also see his physical size increase.
Your dog may exhibit certain behaviors around food, such as overeating if offered unlimited amounts of food, begging for scraps, whining for treats or acting aggressively toward you at mealtimes. When establishing a weight loss plan for your dog, your vet will ask how you feed him and what you feed him; it's important to answer honestly, as sometimes owners can inadvertently contribute to their dog's obesity by giving him snacks, too many treats, or leftovers.
Obesity and overweight are real and pressing issues among dogs, but they can be treated with the right diet and behavior. Make sure to attend regular checkups with your vet to monitor your dog's weight, as well as consulting with your vet if you notice any of the signs or behaviors which could indicate obesity.