A 2018 study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that an alarming 59% of American dogs are overweight. While those chunky boys and girls might steal your heart, having an overweight dog is not something to take lightly. Obesity in dogs is just as serious as it is in humans. It can lead to several health concerns including diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and a lot more. Of course, you’ll love your dog no matter what they look like, but you’ll be doing them a big favor by helping them stay at a healthy weight. Knowing when your dog is overweight, however, isn’t always as simple as it sounds.
Your dog’s ideal weight will depend on their age and breed. If you’re looking at your canine friend and wondering if they look a little chunkier than they did a year ago, it could be time to start a weight loss regimen. Here’s how to tell:
Look At Your Dog From Above
When you stand over your dog and look down at their back, you’ll get a good view of their overall body condition. At their ideal weight, every dog should have a visible waist right before their torso meets their hips. Their sides should also be straight.
If your dog’s body looks more rounded or oval-shaped, and there’s no slightly skinnier area at their waist, that means they’re most likely overweight.
Vets have a handy chart that they use to evaluate a dog’s body condition. They use a scale from 1-9 with 1 being extremely thin and 9 being extremely overweight. You want your dog to fall in the 4-5 range. You can view the chart below and compare the images to your dog.
Look At Your Dog From The Side
After evaluating your dog’s body from the top, shift over to take a good look from the side. You should be able to see that same waistline as a slight tuck just after the ribcage. The severity of the tuck will depend on your dog’s breed. Some dogs are more deep-chested than others.
Regardless of breed, you can tell your dog is overweight if you can’t see a waist or if their stomach is rounded or sagging. Some dogs have a stomach that sways slightly as they walk. These dogs could afford to lose a few pounds.
A visual evaluation like this is a lot easier when your dog has short hair. For the fluffiest of pups, it’ll be a little tricky to see their true size. You can try flattening the floof with your hand, or save this test until right after bath time when their wet fur shows off their natural physique.
Feel For Their Ribs
The next test to determine if your dog is overweight is to feel for their ribs. If they’re at a healthy weight, you should be able to easily feel the ribs beneath the skin. You don’t want the ribs to be too prominent, but they also shouldn’t be hidden under a thick layer of fat. If you have to dig to find your dog’s ribs, it’s time they lost a few pounds.
Weigh Your Dog Regularly
It’s impossible to tell if your dog is overweight just by putting them on a scale one time. Even if you have a purebred dog, breed weight standards come in ranges. Their ideal weight will depend on other factors, including their height and age. And if you have a mixed breed dog, it’s impossible to know what their genes dictate to be the perfect weight.
What you can do, however, is weigh your dog often and keep track of their pounds. It’s a lot easier to compare numbers on the scale than it is to notice a gradual weight gain on a dog you stare adoringly at every day.
For the most helpful results, you should wait until your dog is fully mature and no longer growing. You don’t want those puppy growth spurts messing with your numbers. If you do monthly weigh ins and notice your adult or senior dog is gradually putting on the pounds, you can start a weight loss plan before their weight turns into a serious problem.
Consider Their Behavior
A final way to determine if your dog is overweight is to evaluate their behavior. It’s natural for dogs to slow down or become more mellow as they age, but their supposed laziness could be more about weight than age. Carrying those extra pounds is a lot of work, and being overweight can cause even energetic dogs to lose their endurance and stamina. They might start slowing down on walks or choose to end playtime early when they would normally go all day.
Overweight dogs might also show signs of joint pain, like being slow to stand up or even whimpering. Their extra weight could also affect their breathing. They might huff and puff on a short walk or start snoring more than usual.
If even one of these simple tests suggests your dog is overweight, it’s time to consider their diet and exercise habits. You want your pup to be around for a long time, and the first step is prioritizing their health.