How to help your dog lose weight
We all know the importance of a balanced diet and regular exercise for humans, and our dogs are no different. With their eyes often longing for extra snacks and our busy schedules, it’s not surprising that sadly, often our dogs become overweight.
In this article, we’ll go through everything you need to know about maintaining a healthy weight in dogs such as:
- How to tell if your dog is overweight.
- Why it’s essential to help your dog maintain a healthy weight.
- Top tips for weight loss in dogs.
How do I know if my dog is overweight?
The best way to check if your dog is carrying an appropriate amount of weight is to refer to a body condition score guideline (BCS). A BCS is a special chart that grades your pet’s weight according to specific parameters.
When trying to assess your dog’s body condition score, take them to a relaxed area with good lighting. You’ll need to use a combination of visual and palpable clues to help you judge their score.
Don’t forget, it’s also good practice to record your dog’s weight frequently to help keep track of any changes.
According to the Association for the Pet Obesity Prevention (source), the scoring system is as follows:
- 1 - ‘very thin - the ribs, spine and hip bones are easily visible, fat can’t be seen or felt, the obvious loss of muscle mass extreme waist and abdominal tuck’
- 3 - ‘thin - ribs, spine, and hip bones are easy to feel and visible, fat cannot be seen or felt under the skin, especially around the ribs and lower back, obvious waist and abdominal tuck, some muscle less’
- 5 - ‘ideal - ribs, spine, and hip bones are easily felt and may be visible (coat may interfere with visibility), a waist and abdominal tuck are seen when viewed from above and side, fat can be felt around ribs, spine, and hip bones’
- 7 - ‘overweight - ribs, spine, and hip bones are not visible and difficult to feel, excess fat is felt around ribs spine, and hip bones, waist and abdominal tuck are minimal or absent
- 9 - ‘obesity - ribs, spine, and hip bones are difficult to feel under a thick layer of fat, waist, and abdomen distended when viewed from above and side, prominent fat deposits over lower spine, neck and chest’.
Why is it essential to help my dog maintain a healthy weight?
Now we understand how to tell if a dog is overweight, let’s take a look at why it’s important to help them maintain a healthy weight.
Just like in humans, sadly there are many debilitating and painful conditions associated with a dog being overweight, which are not all visible from the outside or on a day-to-day basis.
Examples of conditions associated with overweight dogs include (source):
- Musculoskeletal problems - arthritis, bone dysplasia, and osteoarthritis.
- Cardiovascular problems - heart disease, hypertension.
- Diseases of organs - lungs, bladder, pancreas, glandular tissue, kidney, liver, reproductive organs, and skin.
It’s good to be aware that although obesity in dogs is often associated with the above, these conditions can also occur due to other factors unrelated to your dog’s weight.
If you’re worried about the health status or condition of your pet, then it’s best to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Our Lifetime Protection Membership includes access to a 24/7 Vet helpline, so if you have any questions about your pet, you can quickly get the help you need, whatever the time of day.
Top 3 weight loss tips for dogs
If your pet is overweight, it’s not all doom and gloom! There are several things you can do to help them, which we’ll go through in this section.
Don’t forget, if your pet is overweight, they should transition into their ideal weight, gradually over a period of weeks and months.
Making sure that your pet has an appropriate amount of exercise not only helps keep them fit but also provides a good source of enrichment to keep them happy and entertained.
No matter what your dog’s personality or physical condition, you’re sure to find an activity that they’ll enjoy. We’ve listed a few examples below:
- Walkies - perhaps they may benefit from an increased number or longer duration of walks. Perhaps you can try taking them to a new place or taking a friend to be with you for them to play with.
- Playtime - if extended or extra walkies are out of the question, you can help your dog burn off extra calories during playtime. This might involve investing in a new toy or trying more interactive forms of play such as frisbee or ball fetching.
- Swimming - if your pet isn’t very able-bodied, or suffers from debilitating conditions and is overweight, then taking them for a swim at your local dog-swimming facility can be a great option to help keep them in shape.
It can be easy to fall into the habit of feeding your pet the same food, in the same amount even though it might not be best for them. As our dogs age, their nutritional requirements change.
It’s always a good idea to refer to the guidelines on your pet’s food and consult your veterinarian if you’re not sure if the food you're giving your dog is the best one for them. Don’t forget, when it comes to dog food, it’s both the quality and quantity that are important.
That being said, if your dog is overweight, it’s especially important to keep treats and food from the table at an absolute minimum. As far as possible, feed your dog items that are specifically designed for them, to help avoid giving them unnecessary calories. You can also try switching their usual treats for healthier alternatives such as vegetables (carrots are a great choice).
Maintaining the weight loss
Once you’ve established an appropriate weight for your pet, it’s important to help them maintain it. We’ve given some tips to help you do this below:
- Record their weight every month - if you don’t have a scale you can use at home, ask your veterinarian if they mind you popping in to use theirs.
- Establish a routine - getting into good habits regarding walkies and mealtimes will help keep your pet in good condition. If you’re struggling to find enough time to exercise your pet, you might want to think about pet walking services. Our Lifetime Protection Membership includes a $30 Rover discount, to help your pet get the exercise they need.
- Ask your veterinarian - when you take your pet for their vaccinations, dental treatment, and checkups, don’t hesitate to ask your vet what they think about your pet’s weight.
- Get everyone involved - it’s also best to make sure that everyone in the household is aware of how to maintain your pet’s appropriate weight. Especially when it comes to giving them snacks!
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article about how you can help your pet establish and maintain an appropriate weight, which is one of the best ways to help them have as healthy and long a life as possible!