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dog parent must-knows
Is your dog overweight

The essentials

  • Overweight pets are at an increased risk of developing health problems — Excess body fat strains your dog’s organs and skeletal structure and places them at a higher risk of diabetes and certain cancers.
  • A high-quality diet is essential to maintain a healthy weight — A dog’s diet should consist of protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, alongside regular exercise.
  • Schedule regular weigh-ins and check-ups with your vet — Your veterinarian will be able to monitor your dog’s overall health as they lose weight and advise on the best exercise plans for your pup, as well as the best diet.

How to tell if your dog is overweight

It’s often difficult to determine if your dog is overweight, especially if you own a large or long-haired breed, such as a St. Bernard. Regular vet check-ups are essential for monitoring your dog’s health and weight. However, there are additional methods you can use to determine if your pup is carrying any extra weight.

Check the dog obesity chart

Body scoring is a simple, visual tool that you can use to assess your dog’s overall body shape. By measuring your dog’s appearance against the body condition scores on a dog obesity chart, you can determine if intervention is necessary to help your dog lose weight.

The dog obesity chart runs from 1 (emaciated) to 9 (obese), with 5 being the ideal weight score. As a general rule for most dog breeds, you should be able to see a clear waistline. If you can’t, chances are your dog is overweight.

Feel for their ribs

When you run your hands down your dog’s body, you should be able to feel their ribs with minimal pressure. A thick layer of fat shouldn’t obscure their rib cage.

Monitor their energy and endurance

Overweight dogs are more prone to excessive panting. The extra weight might cause them to walk a little slower than usual and avoid strenuous exercises such as playing catch or running on a dog-friendly beach. Monitor your dog’s energy level to determine what’s normal for them since each breed (and elderly dogs) has its own exercise needs. You will then be able to notice any subtle changes in activity that may suggest your dog is overweight.

Look for the “tuck-up”

Your dog’s chest should be significantly wider than its abdomen. There will also be a visible “tuck-up,” the natural slim waistline behind the rib cage and before the rump, where the hind legs join the body. Every breed should have some form of a tuck-up, although it may be less noticeable in stocky breeds such as bulldogs and Rottweilers. The tuck-up is more pronounced in naturally slim breeds like greyhounds and borzois. In obese dogs, the tuck-up is less visible — it can even disappear entirely.

👉 Pet obesity can lead to a variety of detrimental health conditions in dogs, including diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease. If you’re concerned about your dog’s weight, speak to your veterinarian.

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Reasons your dog might be overweight 

Weight gain in dogs is not just caused by eating too many treats. There are a variety of factors that contribute to pet obesity. Here are some of the more common reasons your dog may be gaining weight.

Age. As dogs get older, their metabolism slows down, and they require fewer calories per day compared to younger, more active dogs. If they continue to eat the same diet, they are more at risk of obesity. Elderly dogs can also suffer from certain health conditions that may cause them to gain weight, such as diabetes, and joint problems, which may limit mobility.

Breed. Certain breeds are predisposed to weight gain due to their naturally lower energy levels. Other breeds may be genetically predisposed to weight gain. For example, scientists at the University of Cambridge have found that a significant proportion of Labradors and retrievers carry a variant of the POMC gene. This is strongly associated with obesity and a lack of appetite control.

Health issues. If your dog lost a significant amount of weight or experienced unexplained weight gain in a short time, they could be suffering from an underlying health condition, as hypothyroidism. Certain medications can also cause weight gain in canines, particularly steroidal anti-inflammatories.

Neutering/spaying. Neutering or spaying alters your pet’s natural hormone balance, which can cause weight gain. However, a study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association found that these effects were only significant in the first two years after surgery.

Lack of exercise. Canine couch potatoes will burn off fewer calories than a dog that constantly has the zoomies! You will need to account for your dog’s energy levels when determining the right amount of food to feed your pup. Smaller dog breeds will also require fewer calories than larger dog breeds. Dog food packaging will show feeding guidelines that you can use as a general guide. However, remember that every dog is different. If you’re uncertain, always speak to your veterinarian.

Sex. Female dogs are more likely to gain excess weight compared to male dogs, especially after spaying. Estrogen plays a large part in appetite regulation, and spayed dogs produce less of this hormone. So, its appetite-suppressing effects are reduced. Contrary to popular opinion, both male and female dogs naturally produce estrogen, but it’s more pronounced in females because it controls ovulation.

Overfeeding. Some commercial dog foods and treats are high in calories, which can lead to weight gain in the long run. Just because certain prescription diets are labeled low-fat, it doesn’t mean they are low in calories. Many budget foods contain dense fillers that lack the essential nutrients dogs need for optimum health. Check your dog’s food to ensure there is enough protein. Portion sizes vary by food type and between dogs depending on their breed, age, and health status. A strict feeding schedule is still essential to help your dog lose weight.

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It’s easy to fit ZipZyme™ Omega into your dog’s meal routine. Simply mix ZipZyme™ into your dog’s favorite food each day, wet or dry. It comes in 1-teaspoon, individually-packaged servings. Incorporating ZipZyme™ into your pet’s daily diet will exponentially improve the meal’s nutritional value, help to stop the continued accumulation of unhealthy fats, and restore balance to their metabolism, keeping them active, engaged, and vital.

Breeds prone to obesity

Here are some of the top breeds prone to becoming overweight:

4 ways to help your dog lose weight

It’s best to start a healthy regime when your dog is still a puppy, with regular exercise, a healthy diet, and twice-yearly wellness exams. It can be more difficult to help a dog to lose weight when they are already carrying a few extra pounds. However, with a bit of patience and persistence, you can bring your dog back down to a healthy weight.

Step 1: See the vet

The first step is to set up an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis. They will weigh your dog and advise you on the best weight loss plan. They will also be able to assess whether any underlying medical conditions may be contributing to the unwanted weight gain.

Step 2: Make some changes at meal time

As a general guide, veterinarians suggest that you reduce your dog’s food portions by 10% for weight loss. However, the amount will vary between breeds and individuals. You can also consider using a puzzle feeder as this will help your dog to eat slower, such as the Hide n’ Slide Interactive Treat Puzzle Dog Toy.

Remember that the type of dog food you buy is just as important as portion control. Make sure you choose a high-quality, protein-rich kibble that will fulfill all of your dog’s health needs. However, be careful about how many calories your dog is taking in. Some high-protein diets can be very calorific.

Furthermore, If your dog loves treats, try swapping out high-calorie ones for healthy alternatives, such as carrots and green beans.

👉 Not sure what foods are safe for your dog to eat? Read our extensive list of healthy foods for dogs

Step 3: Get moving

Additionally, you will need to get your dog moving more by incorporating more physical activity into their daily routine. Remember, slow and steady weight loss is the best approach because rapid weight loss can be dangerous. Consider your dog’s energy levels to come up with an exercise plan that will be fun and beneficial for both of you. This can include regular walks, agility training, swimming, and other fun activities. If you have an elderly dog or one that suffers from joint problems, you may want to consider less strenuous exercises like hydrotherapy.

Step 4: Involve the entire family

Set small weekly weight loss goals for your dog and make sure the whole family is on board. Continue to schedule follow-up appointments with your vet to monitor your dog’s progress and to ensure your dog is healthily losing weight.

Frequently asked questions

How do I know if my dog’s obese?

You can determine whether your dog is obese by referring to a dog obesity chart. These are simple, visual aids that use body condition scores to assess whether a dog is overweight or underweight. A body score of 7 or above is classed as obese in most breeds. Your dog may also be overweight if you can’t easily feel their ribs when you run your hands down their body.

Does obesity shorten a dog’s life?

Yes, obesity has been proven to significantly reduce the lifespan of dogs. A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine found that the lifespans of overweight dogs were, on average, 2 years shorter than dogs of a healthy weight. This was particularly prominent in smaller dog breeds like Chihuahuas. Obesity can lead to a range of health issues in dogs, including diabetes, kidney disease, and joint problems.

How much should a dog eat if overweight?

The correct food intake for an overweight dog will vary based on their age, current weight, breed, and health status. To help your dog lose weight, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. They will be able to guide you on the best diet and exercise plan to help your dog lose weight gradually and safely.