Fat Dog Sitting On Tile

What do I do if my dog is overweight?

Obesity and your dog

Obesity has become an epidemic for our pets, and it’s hurting their health in many ways.

More than 50% of dogs and cats in the United States today are considered overweight or obese. If your pet falls into this population, take it very seriously as your pet is at significant risk for developing:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heart and Respiratory Disease
  • Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injury (ACL tear)
  • Kidney Disease
  • Many forms of cancer
  • Decreased life expectancy (up to 2.5 years less than an animal at a healthy weight.

If your dog is only a few pounds overweight, you might think it’s nothing to worry about. But consider this: A few extra pounds on a dog or cat are equivalent to people being dozens of pounds overweight.

Click here to easily calculate the human equivalent of your pet’s body weight.

Extra weight means added stress on bones and joints, extra work for the heart and lungs, and increased inflammation throughout the body. Your pet’s life depends on your commitment to helping them achieve an ideal body condition.

Body Condition Score (BCS)

In addition to your pet’s weight, your pet’s body condition score is an important indicator of their health. This score is graded on a scale of 1-5 or 1-9.

What’s an ideal body condition for my dog?

It should be easy to feel your dog’s ribs, and the ribs should have minimal fat covering. You should be able to easily detect a waist when you view your dog from above and should see an abdominal tuck when you view your dog from the side.

Click to view a Body Condition Score chart from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA)

How can I help my overweight pet safely and permanently achieve a lean body condition?

The first step is committing to a lifestyle change for your pet.  Effective weight loss does not happen overnight.

What is a safe weight loss goal?

CARE recommends that your dog loses around 0.5-1% body weight per week.

Things to keep in mind for your pet’s weight loss:

Your vet might recommend a complete blood panel before starting a diet to rule out metabolic reasons for obesity, such as low thyroid. Additionally, if your dog has liver or kidney disease, CARE recommends possibly consulting a veterinary nutritionist or internal medicine specialists for specific diet recommendations.

CARE does NOT recommend free-feeding your dog. You can feed your dog several meals throughout the day, but you must know exactly how much food your dog is eating each day. Keeping the bowl full or using automatic feeding machines will not help your dog lose weight.

For more help, read about tracking how many calories your dog is eating, tracking how much they burn during exercise, and healthy treat options.