A dog in ideal condition will have a thin layer of fat on their ribs. Dogs that are a healthy weight should have their ribs easily felt with minimal pressure on their sides, but not seen. When viewed from the side, these dogs have a ‘tuck up’, and when viewed from above, they have an obvious waist.
Overweight dogs will have a thicker layer of fat over their ribs. To feel an overweight dog’s ribs, the dog’s sides must be pressed. When viewed from the side and above, these dogs look more like a ‘block’, with no tuck or waist.
Some breeds may have characteristics that make it difficult to judge the condition of the dog, but these general guidelines are applicable for most breeds. For purebreds, there are specifications for the correct weight, but these too are only guidelines, and some individuals dogs may be small or large for the breed, and so may have different ideal weights.
Canine obesity is a serious health concern. Overweight dogs, in general, die earlier than dogs of appropriate weights. This is because being overweight puts more stress on an animal’s internal systems and organs (such as their heart, lungs, liver and kidneys). This leaves overweight animals more likely to develop cardiac disease, congestive heart failure, lung disease, and respiratory problems.
Obese animals are also at a greater risk of cancer, anal gland problems, constipation, diabetes, intestinal gas, stroke, skin problems, and an impaired immune system in general. Additional weight can cause and exacerbate health problems, such as arthritis and joint problems, including spinal disc issues. Overweight animals generally tolerate the heat less, have difficulty exercising, and are more likely to injure themselves when they do exercise.
If you believe your dog is overweight, it is important to check with your vet before making considerable changes to your dog’s diet or exercise regime. There are some medical problems that may cause your dog to be overweight.
If you want to reduce your dog’s weight, there are a number of strategies that could be utilised.
- If your dog is on processed food, read the label and ensure you measure out appropriate serves. Remember that the label is a guide only and many dogs require less than the recommended amount specified on the packet.
- If your dog is on dry food, you should be able to find a ‘light’ alternative of that dry food. Switch your dog to this food if possible.
- If your dog is on dry or tin food, it is easy to reduce the portions you serve. If you feel the need, you can replace food with something low fat like carrot or steamed vegetables.
- It is easy to over feed dogs on snacks. If you must feed your dog snacks throughout the day, measure out the amount of food you intend to feed your dog at the beginning of the day and feed snacks and treats from this measured amount. If there is anything left at dinner time, then your dog can have the rest. This way, you are ensuring your dog only gets an appropriate amount of food and nothing extra.
- Free feeding makes it difficult to measure the amount your dog is eating and encourages finicky eating in dogs. Decide how much food your dog is going to get per day, and offer this amount for 20 minutes each day only with no snacks. Assuming there is no underlying medical problem, a healthy animal will not starve itself.
- If you are feeding your dog raw meat on bones, it becomes difficult to simply cut back on the volume of food. In this case, switch to low fat meats, avoiding pork, and remove any excess fat or skin from the meat you feed. You may be able to purchase mince, which you can easily divide into small portions, and only feed bones (which are harder to measure) occasionally.