Is My Dog too Fat?

obesity in dogs

Ideal Weight

Experts estimate that almost every second dog we meet is too fat. This is already changing our viewing habits: Most pet owners don’t even notice that their dog is too round. Take the test here to see how your four-legged friend is doing.

How Can I Tell if my Dog Is too Fat?

Do not rely on weight tables that list ideal weights for different dog breeds, as they are far too inaccurate.

For example, 25 to 34 kg is listed as the ideal weight for a Labrador. If a petite bitch with 25 kg body weight is exactly right, the same bitch with 34 kg would have more than 30% too much on her ribs and would therefore not “only” be overweight, but obese.

If you want to find out if your dog is too fat, you need to look at him closely and, above all, palpate him. You should answer the following questions:

Does your dog have a waist?

When you look at your dog from above or from the side, his waist should be clearly visible. If he has a fuzzy coat, it is best to stroke his flanks with both hands. Behind the rib cage, your hands should describe a distinct curve inward.

Are his ribs palpable?

Run your hand over your dog’s rib cage. His ribs should be palpable, even through thick fur, without any effort on your part. A small layer of fat over the ribs is normal.

If you can see the ribs and dorsal vertebrae from a distance, the dog is probably too thin. However, in some dog breeds (e.g. greyhounds) this is also okay.

Can you count his ribs?

If your dog is ideal weight, you can effortlessly count his ribs by simply running your hand over them.

If you have to strain and press harder to count the ribs, this indicates 10 to 15% overweight.

If you can’t even feel where one rib ends and the next begins, your dog is already carrying 20 to 30% too much weight. By medical definition, this makes him obese and seriously ill.

Does he have fat pads on his back and at the base of his tail?

If you run your hand lightly over his spine, you should be able to clearly feel the individual vertebrae or their spinous processes, even in well-muscled dogs. If you find this difficult, your dog probably has fat pads on his back that don’t belong there.

Has his desire to move diminished?

Of course, every dog becomes a bit calmer with time. But if you are only walking a short dog walk so your darling doesn’t get so out of breath, something is wrong and you should go to the vet.

When is a dog considered overweight?

We know hundreds of different dog breeds from tiny to huge, males are often larger than females and there are also individual differences in size. Accordingly, it is difficult to give information about the ideal weight for an individual dog.

One can help oneself with the so-called Body Condition Score (BCS), which defines five categories. The jump from one category to the next means 10 to 15% more body weight:

  1. BCS 1/5: The dog is very lean. No fat can be felt above the ribs. Ribs, dorsal vertebrae and pelvic bones are conspicuously visible with short coat and he has hardly any muscle.
  2. BCS 2/5: The dog is underweight. There is only a very thin layer of fat over the ribs. Ribs and dorsal vertebrae are visible with short coat.
  3. BCS 3/5: The dog has ideal weight. There is a small layer of fat over the ribs, but they are effortlessly countable. He has a definite waist.
  4. BCS 4/5: The dog is 10 to 15% overweight. His ribs and dorsal vertebrae are just barely palpable, but no longer easy to count. There is hardly any waist to be seen. His risk of diseases such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease is increased and his life expectancy is reduced.
  5. BCS 5/5: The dog is 20 to 30% overweight. This means he suffers from obesity (adiposity). Ribs and backbone can be felt only with great difficulty or not at all. A waist can no longer be seen, but instead there are clear fat pads on the back and base of the tail. Obesity to this extent is already a disease even without complications such as diabetes, heart or joint disease.

dog’s body condition score

You can also find an assessment chart for your dog’s body condition on the Royal Canin website.

How Can I Determine the Ideal Weight for my Dog?

When you determine your dog’s Body Condition Score, you already know relatively precisely what condition he is in. However, you do not yet know his exact target weight, which he should have reached at the end of a diet.

For example, with a BCS 4/5, you know that a 40 kg dog should lose 4 to 6 kg, but you do not yet know whether your dog should lose 4 or rather 6 kg.

As a rule of thumb, the weight your dog had at the end of its growth phase – usually that’s around 12 months of age, later for very large breeds – is its personal ideal weight.

If you do not remember how much your dog weighed at that time, it is best to ask your veterinarian. Usually, the weight development is noted in the patient’s file. If this is also not the case, you can estimate the personal ideal weight based on the weights of the parents – provided that father and mother were not too fat.

Overweight: What’s the Big Deal?

You have already read it: Obesity is not a blemish, but actually a disease that entails many complications.

However, most dog owners feel the same way as smokers – we like to suppress complications such as cancer or diabetes as long as they have not yet occurred and hope that the cup will pass us by. A long list of possible secondary diseases therefore does not usually motivate people to lose weight or to quit smoking.

But there are two solid arguments for letting your dog slim down:

Scientific studies have shown that being overweight

  1. demonstrably reduces your dog’s zest for life. And it does so today, not sometime in the future.
  2. It shortens your dog’s life expectancy by an average of two years, even if he doesn’t suffer from complications today.

So you have it in your hands to give your dog a longer, happier life!

What is the Best Way for my Dog to Get Rid of the Flab?

Actually, it’s quite simple: overweight occurs when your dog consumes more energy than he uses. So we have two ways to make him lose weight:

  1. We feed him less energy. Say: We change to a diet food.
  2. We increase his energy consumption through more exercise.

All quite logical and no different from humans. In real life, however, losing weight is usually not quite so simple. After all, there are reasons why people became overweight in the first place.

First step: recognize feeding mistakes

With dogs, food also has a high social significance and anything we change in our feeding routine therefore interferes with the relationship level between us and our dog. This makes it especially difficult for us to change our feeding behavior.

The first step, therefore, is to think about how you feed your dog and understand why they do it that way and not differently. The best way to do this is by keeping a feeding diary.

Second step: create a diet plan

The next step is to actually start a diet and this is best done with veterinary assistance. Before starting the diet, your dog should be checked out once by your veterinarian to rule out any possible underlying diseases or pre-existing complications such as diabetes or a heart problem.

Together with your vet, you should then draw up a diet plan with realistic goals. The more small intermediate goals you define, the more sense of achievement you and your dog will have.

When you create a diet plan for your dog, it will also be a question of which diet food he should get. We have had the best experiences with veterinary reduction diets from Royal Canin and Hill’s.

Any diet plan also includes an exercise program adapted to your dog’s fitness level. Since many overweight dogs already have joint and circulation problems, you usually need to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of exercise, following the motto “moderate but regular exercise”. Your veterinarian can tell you how much and what kind of exercise you can expect your dog to do.

Third step: sticking to the diet

Persevering is certainly the hardest part for most dog owners. But there are many little tricks you can use to motivate yourself to persevere every day.

The most important factor is your attitude towards your dog’s diet. If you feel like you’re causing your dog suffering by depriving him of his beloved treats, you’re highly unlikely to stick it out for long. Instead, realize how much you are giving your dog when you help him reach his ideal weight: You’re giving him health, agility, zest for life, and more time to live that you can both enjoy together!

Autumn Jolley
Autumn Jolley
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