It’s no surprise that many pet parents love to spoil their dogs (Team NOW FRESH included!), and it can be easy to slip into a routine with more treats and less exercise than is ideal for our dogs, which can quickly cause your dog to become overweight. The more they gain and the older they get, the harder it will be to help them get back to a healthy weight and prevent serious health conditions. So, we’re here to help! Read on to learn how to tell if your dog is overweight, what causes weight gain in dogs, what health risks are associated with dog obesity, and how to help your dog lose weight.
How to know if your dog is overweight
Many dog owners may not be sure if their dog is overweight or not – unless you know what to look for, it can be hard to tell. In fact, the 2021 survey of dog owners by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention shows that 39% of dog owners think their dog is overweight, when other reports show true pet obesity rates at closer to 50%. Every dog is different, so the best way to tell if your dog is at a healthy weight is by using your eyes and hands. Ideally, your dog should have a tucked tummy and a visual hint of rib with a thin layer of body fat, and you should be able to feel their ribs and hip bones without pressing hard with your fingers. Check out our Dog Body Condition Score Chart for a guide of what to look for to determine if your dog is underweight, overweight, or just right.
Dog Body Condition Score Chart
Check out our Dog Body Condition Score Chart for a guide of what to look for to determine if your dog is underweight, overweight, or just right.
Dog Body Condition Score Chart
What causes weight gain in dogs
Unsurprisingly, diet and lack of exercise are major contributors to weight gain in dogs. It can be very easy to accidentally overfeed your dog, especially if you give treats and chews in addition to their daily meals. Some easy rules to live by are to make sure any additional treats make up only 10% of your dog’s daily food intake and reduce their meal size slightly if you give them a nutrient-rich treat, such as a raw bone. Another tip is to cut all table scraps out of your dog’s diet, other than an unseasoned piece of meat, fruit or veggie here and there. Our own meals are often much richer and saltier than what is ideal for our dogs, and a little can go a long way to making your dog fatter than is healthy for them.
Exercises for overweight dogs
Exercising your dog properly is also essential to maintaining their healthy weight. Walks are the most common way people exercise their dogs, and they also provide a great outlet for relationship building and proper socialization. It’s important to remember that walking on-leash is not an inherent skill most dogs have, and it needs to be trained just like any other obedience behaviour. Gradual, reward-based and force-free training is essential – read our tips for how to perfect your dog’s loose leash walking skills, and how to work through hesitations if your dog refuses to walk on-leash. Once you’ve got the loose-leash walking down pat, you can move on to recall training to prepare your dog for off-leash freedom with safety first and foremost.
High energy play sessions, such as fetch and tug, are also great ways to exercise your dog and satisfy their natural prey drive in a safe, controlled way. Playtime is a good opportunity to work in some obedience training and improve your dog’s impulse control as well – simply using your “drop it” command during tug and asking them to “wait” before they fetch the ball helps keep their obedience skills sharp and tires them out much more quickly than physical exercise alone.
No matter what type of exercise works best for your dog, be sure to pay close attention to their behaviour. High drive dogs often don’t want to quit even when they need to – rapid heavy panting and drooling are signs your dog is overheating, so be sure to give them a chance to rest and drink water to avoid putting too much stress on their body.
Healthy weight loss should be gradual, so be sure to make any changes slowly to give your dog time to adjust. If you notice a sudden change in your dog’s weight, there may be a more serious underlying cause such as a thyroid condition. Be sure to contact your veterinarian if your dog has suddenly gained or lost a bunch of weight while on their regular routine that previously worked well for them.
What are the health risks for an overweight dog
Just like with humans, there are numerous serious health issues linked to dog obesity; keeping your dog at a healthy weight throughout their lives can help prevent these problems from occurring as they get older.
Diseases associated with dog obesity
High blood pressure: also called hypertension, high blood pressure can become fatal for overweight dogs. The heart has to work extra hard to pump blood throughout an overweight body, which can lead to congestive heart failure if left untreated.
Respiratory Problems: especially in brachycephalic (i.e., short-snouted) dogs such as French Bulldogs and Pugs, predisposition to breathing problems can be significantly worsened by obesity.
Osteoarthritis: joint problems are also common in obese dogs as the extra weight can put a lot of stress on their joints and limbs, making it painful to move around.
What to feed an overweight dog
The good news is that helping your dog lose weight and avoid those health issues doesn’t have to be difficult. Considering what and how much you’re feeding your dog is a great place to start. Premium dog food is made with natural ingredients, meaning the size and weight of the kibble varies. Therefore, it’s a good idea to weigh your dog’s food with a kitchen scale, rather than measuring it, to make sure you’re actually feeding the amount you intend to.
Switching up their regular recipe may also be the key to helping your overweight dog slim down. We recommend choosing a recipe with moderate fat – look for a crude fat percentage less than 13% on the Guaranteed Analysis – and natural fibre-rich ingredients such as flaxseed, pumpkin and lentils to help keep them feeling full even when feeding less. More specialized functional ingredients like L-carnitine, which helps burn fat, are also great additions to a healthy weight loss diet. You can often find this kind of formulation in recipes designed for senior dogs, so consider a senior recipe if your adult dog needs help maintaining a healthy weight.
NOW FRESH Recipes for Senior Dogs
Our recipes for Senior dogs are crafted by our pet nutritionists to help dogs thrive as they get older. They are formulated to maintain hip, joint & heart health, with moderate protein & fat to help support a healthy weight.
View senior dog recipes
Overall, it’s important to remember that your pet’s body condition is a major contributor to and indicator of overall health. And while we love to spoil our dogs with delicious treats and lazy days on the couch, it’s better for them in the long run to keep them fit and active so they can stay healthy, and you can enjoy their company long into their golden years.
Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 2021 Pet Owner: Weight Management, Nutrition and Pet Food Survey - 2021 — Association for Pet Obesity Prevention
VetInfo.com - Causes of Rapid Weight Gain in Dogs (vetinfo.com)
The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 136, Issue 7, 1 July 2006, Pages 1940S-1946S; Growing Problem of Obesity in Dogs and Cats | The Journal of Nutrition | Oxford Academic (oup.com)