Is Your Dog Overweight?  

 According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) an estimated 60% of cats and 56% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. 

I’m sure you are aware of the damaging effects of obesity on human health. Many of those negative effects can also happen to Fido if he’s carrying a few extra pounds. One advantage that dogs have over us when it comes to losing weight is that they have no choice in the matter. They are completely dependent upon us to be their personal weight loss coach. 

Why Is Dog Obesity Dangerous? 

Obesity impacts a dog’s health and longevity. There are many long-term effects of dog obesity, including diabetes, osteoarthritis, hypertension, heart disease and increased risk of developing malignant tumors, to name just a few.  In addition, younger pets are also developing joint and mobility problems due to obesity.  The evidence and results are consistent: dogs that are at a healthy weight will almost always live a longer life than those that are overweight. Unfortunately, many pet owners don’t even realize that their pets are too fat!    

Is my dog overweight? 

Before you decide that this article doesn’t apply to your dog, you might want to do a rib check by placing both of your thumbs on your dog’s backbone. Then, spread your hands across its ribcage as if you are holding it. You should be able to feel your dog’s ribs easily, without applying too much pressure. Your dog’s ribs should also be slightly visible. If you can’t easily and distinctly feel your dog’s ribs, he’s probably overweight. Then look at your dog from above and see if his abdomen is slimmer than his chest and hips.  There should be a definite waistline behind the ribs.  

What do I do if my dog is overweight? 

First thing is to consult your veterinarian who is best qualified to determine if your dog or cat needs to lose a few pounds. Your vet can recommend a weight loss plan which will likely include changing to a more appropriate food, changing the amount of food, and increasing exercise. Increasing exercise isn’t difficult, but you’ll probably need to exercise with him.  Increase the length of daily walks and step up the pace if possible. Give your dog the opportunity to run, jump and play actively outside. 

Changing food might require a bit more research.  Feeding a food with fillers, carbohydrates, and other low-quality ingredients has probably contributed to the problem.  Switching to a top-quality food will give your dog more nutrients in every bite so he won’t need to eat as much. Not to mention, better quality foods include more vitamins and minerals that will aid in weight loss and promote better overall health.  Many pet owners and experts believe that feeding a commercially prepared frozen raw diet is best for many reasons, but if the main concern is weight loss, raw diets do not have the excess carbohydrates.  

According to Dr. Karen Becker, a highly respected holistic veterinarian, “Regardless of his weight, your dog still needs the right nutrition for his species, which means food that is high in animal protein and moisture, with low levels of carbohydrates, controlled through the portions you feed.  And don’t forget to factor in calories from treats.”  

Be wary of foods that are specifically labeled as “light” or “weight loss” formula.  Often times, this is simply a marketing gimmick.   Dr. Becker goes on to say that, “90 percent of the dog foods on the market contain ingredients that are not only biologically inappropriate for canines, but are also loaded with salt, fats and sugars. Most popular dog food brands contain up to 80 percent filler, primarily corn, wheat, rice and potato. These carbohydrates are added because a primarily meat-based mixture is expensive to produce.”   

If your dog is one of the millions of overweight pets, it is vital to get him on a healthier track starting now. Obesity greatly increases your dog’s risk of preventable health problems and it will shorten his life expectancy.