Though it’s fun to give your dog treats and great to see how much they enjoy their meals, many dogs will eat without restraint, leaving us to be responsible for managing their weight.
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 56% of dogs are overweight or obese. It’s a health crisis for dogs—unfortunately, it’s so often overlooked and not recognized. Though it may look cute when our pup is pleasantly plump, it can actually be harmful.
Overweight dogs are at a higher risk for health issues. In this post, we’ll discuss why maintaining a healthy weight for your dog is so important and some great ways to do it.
Why Do You Need to Manage Your Dog's Weight?
Just like with people, it’s important for dogs to maintain a healthy weight. Many of the reasons are the same for people and dogs alike, as being overweight or obese can put them at significant risk for health issues that can reduce their quality of life and even shorten it. These include:
- Some types of cancer, like bladder cancer and breast cancer
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Breathing issues like laryngeal paralysis (collapsing trachea)
- Anesthesia risk
- Lipomas and fatty tumors
By not providing the right amount of quality food regularly for your dog, you may be harming and not helping your dog. It can be a tough balance, and an occasional treat won’t hurt your dog. The issue is when dogs eat more than they are burning off regularly.
How Can You Know if Your Dog is Overweight?
If you’re unsure if your dog is a healthy weight, talk with your primary vet. During your routine annual medical exam, ask your vet if your dog is at the right weight.
The vet will weigh your dog and check its appearance to make the determination. Typically, a dog is considered overweight when its body weight is more than 10-20% over its ideal body weight. If they are more than 20% over it, then they are considered obese.
If you’d like a visual representation, there are several different representations. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) provides this graphic for body condition scoring.
What Should You Do If Your Dog is Overweight?
If your dog needs to lose weight, you’re in good company! It’s correctable with consistent attention and work.
- Ask your vet for guidance, and consider weight management food if your dog has to lose a significant amount of weight. There are prescription diets for weight management, and there are some you can get in pet stores as well. These foods are nutritionally dense and higher in fiber to help keep your dog feeling full while providing the requirements.
- If your dog just needs to lose a few pounds and isn’t obese, reduce the amount of food your dog eats and consider measuring the amount to make sure you’re consistent.
- Reduce the number of treats you provide and make sure those that you do give are high quality. No more junk food like table scraps! Consider things like chicken jerky instead of dog biscuits, as they have a higher nutritional value, but be sure you’re limiting them and providing less than the package may indicate. Those recommendations are for dogs at a healthy weight.
- Consider adding something like green beans to your dog’s meal if they will eat them. Many dogs enjoy green beans, and they are a great low-calorie addition to their diet.
- Increase your dog’s activity level by doing something you both enjoy. Toss a ball, go for a walk, or head to the dog park.
Once your dog hits the target goal weight that you and your vet agreed upon, congratulations! It can be challenging to do, so enjoy the moment. After you hit the goal, keep an eye on your dog’s weight.
Being dramatically underweight isn’t healthy for your dog, either. So, make sure when you’re working on it that to get to a healthy weight and maintain that.
If you’re unsure, your vet is a great person to ask. Or check out the body condition scoring charts mentioned above for guidance. Keep an eye on portion sizes, and it’s a good idea to continue measuring the food to ensure your dog gets the right amount.
If your dog’s activity level changes, you might need to adjust a bit. Keep treats to 10% or less of their total caloric intake, and continue with healthy, low-calorie veggies that your dog enjoys.
Maintaining your dog’s healthy weight is a journey and not a sprint.