There are over 300 breeds of dogs worldwide. They range in size from tiny Chihuahuas that usually weigh 6 pounds or less to mastiffs that can weigh up to 230 pounds.
These breeds all descend from one common ancestor: wolves. Early humans formed a mutually beneficial relationship with wolves. They bred them to help with tasks like herding, protection, and hunting. Over the last several thousand years, as humanity evolved, so did dog breeds, leading to the amazing variety of furry friends that we have today.
You want your dog pals to be happy and healthy. It's important to make sure that they are at the proper weight for their breed.
How to Tell If Your Dog Is Overweight
One way to tell whether your dog is overweight is to use the "body condition score" to evaluate their weight. This scoring uses body features on your dog to tell if they are overweight. This is because there is no standard weight for dogs as a species due to there being so many breeds. This 5-point scale starts at one and goes up to five:
- You can see and feel your dog's ribs and there’s little body fat. This dog is underweight.
- You can feel their ribs easily and can see them, but only from up close. When you look at the dog from above, you can see the waist. This dog may be slightly underweight.
- You can feel ribs, but not see them. You can see a waist from above. This dog is a healthy weight.
- You can only feel ribs under a layer of fat. There is extra fat near the base of the tail. This dog is slightly overweight.
- Your dog has extra fat on their neck, limbs, and back. You cannot see a waist from above and the abdomen is hanging down or distended. This dog is obese.
You can do this evaluation yourself, but it is best to see your vet to get professional advice if you think your dog is overweight.
How Being Overweight Affects Your Dog
Many of the health consequences for overweight dogs are similar to those faced by humans. Five of them are:
- Back problems: Obese dogs have a higher risk of developing slipped spinal disks. Additionally, overweight dogs recover more slowly from spinal surgery than dogs at a healthy weight.
- Shorter Life: Overweight dog's lives average about two years shorter than their counterparts at a healthy weight.
- Arthritis: Dogs at healthy weights have a later onset of arthritis. Experts believe this is, in part, because there is less stress on their joints.
- Inflammation: Fat in all animals causes inflammation that can lead to other diseases.
Cardiovascular disease is another complication. Similar to humans, being overweight puts stress on your dog's cardiovascular system. This puts them at a higher risk for congestive heart failure or other conditions.
How to Help Your Dog Lose Weight
Losing weight is the best choice for your overweight dog's health. Most dogs can safely lose 3% to 5% of their body weight in a month. However, the first step in any dog weight loss plan should be to consult your veterinarian. They will give you the best advice to keep your furry pal healthy. Here are some tips that your vet might give you:
- Put them on a diet: Your vet can calculate the appropriate number of calories to feed your dog per day for healthy weight loss.
- Increase exercise: Take your dog on longer walks. Gradually increase the intensity of your walks from a fun stroll with plenty of sniffing to a focused walk at a faster pace.
- Make feeding fun: Keep your dog more active by moving their food bowl around the house so they have to walk around more to search for their food. You can also use treat puzzle toys to make your dog work for their yummy snacks.
- Playtime: Use dog toys, balls, bones, or sticks to play fetch with your dog and get them running around. You can also use a laser pointer to give them something to chase.
- Feed them low-calorie veggie treats: Dogs love crunchy veggies as a snack. Try carrots, asparagus, broccoli, or green beans in moderation to give your dog a treat without the calories.
Many dogs on a diet beg for food even after you have fed them. If your dog does this, try giving them affection or taking them for a walk instead of giving them more food. They may associate food with getting attention and your love may satisfy their cravings.
If that doesn't work, try spreading out your dog's allotted amount of food throughout the day. Several smaller meals may keep Fido more satisfied than one or two big ones.