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Ask a Vet: How to Put an Overweight Dog on a Diet?

How to Put an Overweight Dog on a Diet
How to Put an Overweight Dog on a Diet

In recent years, dogs – just like their human counterparts – have become more and more overweight (1). In fact, studies show that canine obesity has become an epidemic, with the average weight of cats and dogs consistently on the rise. An obese dog is more prone to a variety of health issues including an early death (2), but can an overweight dog be put on a diet?

Yes, dogs can be put on a “diet” of sorts to help them lose the weight, but there’s more pet owners need to know about helping a fat dog lose the extra pounds. Let’s dig deeper.

What are the dangers for overweight dogs?

Canine obesity poses plenty of health risks for dogs. Extra pounds don’t just affect your dog’s health, but his movement and overall quality of life (3).

Overweight dogs experience strain on their back, legs and paws. Being obese also puts unnecessary stress on your dog’s joints, resulting in earlier signs of canine arthritis (4).

Studies have also found that obesity results in heart disease in dogs (5, 6) and cancer, hypertension, respiratory problems, poor heat tolerance and surgical complications (7, 8).

When are dogs considered overweight or obese?

Vets confirm that dogs are considered overweight when the weight is more than 15% above ideal. A canine is considered obese when his weight is more than 30% of ideal.

To establish a dog’s ideal weight, usually a Body Condition Score (BCS) chart is used and ideally, you’ll need to have a conversation with your veterinarian.

If your veterinarian tells you that your dog is overweight according to the BCS chart, it’s time to help your dog drop some pounds, but do it in a safe and regulated way.

Dogs can be put on a diet, and there are many ways to do so. It’s best to work with a canine nutrition specialist, whether it’s your vet or a licensed canine nutritionist, to create a diet plan for an overweight dog that will meet all of your canine’s nutritional needs without depriving him of any dietary requirements that his body needs to function.

In addition to your dog’s diet, a well-structured exercise routine for the dog is essential as well. Studies have found how exercise regime can effective help dogs get in shape (9). In this article, I’ll cover everything pet owners of overweight dogs must know, so read on.

Should My Fat Dog Get On a Diet?

It is estimated that more than 50% of the canine population in the US is overweight or obese. However, most owners do not realize that their dogs are overweight because they are unable to judge their weight and body size accurately, according to studies (10, 11).

The “ideal” body weight for each breed and each individual seems to have been forgotten by pet owners. Therefore, it’s important to keep in mind that there are specific guidelines that apply to dogs of all breeds and sizes that pet owners must follow.

The above mentioned Body Condition Score chart provides an accurate measurement for dog’s body assessment, as long as pet owners understand how to follow it (12, 13).

Speak to your veterinarian about your pet’s weight, and ask for their assistance if you’re having trouble following the guidelines from the Body Condition Score chart.

Two scoring systems exist: a 1-9 scale and a 1-5 scale. The World Small Animal Veterinary Association recommends using the 1-9 scale (PDF). It’s important to stress that you must follow the chart rather than judge the dog yourself, since most dog owners are unable to accurately assess what a healthy weight and body size is for their dogs (10, 11).

Vets see this all the time:

In clinical practice, when I show owners examples of “ideal” body weights for particular breeds, they usually think that the “ideal” is “too thin.”

Your veterinarian can determine if a medical condition is causing your dog to be overweight from routine screening blood tests and a physical examination.

For example, low thyroid hormone levels, known as hypothyroidism, and Cushing’s disease known as hyperadrenocorticism, can cause dogs to become overweight. There many other factors that come into play here, but too many to mention in the article.

INTERVIEW: The Risks of Canine Obesity & How To Keep Your Dog Fit

How Do I Put My Overweight Dog on a Diet?

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About the author

Jessica Goldberg

Jessica Goldberg

Editor for @DogCoutureCNTRY | Love my outdoors yoga | Family, friends and of course puppies dogs. Go figure! social media geek at heart community manager. Follow @JessicaGoldb

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