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Information Connection: Is Your Dog Overweight?

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How to know if your dog is too fat, and what to do about it

By Ed Kane,

In the United States, most pets and their human companions have one thing in common: too much food and too little exercise.

With nutritious dog food abundant and palatable, a common cause of pet obesity isn't the food itself but the feeding. Many pet owners are too eager to please. They don't carefully monitor their pets' weight and succumb too often to dogs that beg and whimper for more.

You must monitor your pet's body weight, and keep it within limits if you care about your pet's health.

How to Know if Your Dog is Overweight

A healthy pet's body is proportional. His ribs can be felt and folds of fat aren't easily seen. Overweight dogs have noticeable paunches, broader conformations, and ribs that are not easily seen or felt. Fat dogs also don't have the “tuck” normally seen in front of the hindquarters.

Obesity in dogs will greatly accelerate disease, just as it does in humans. Obesity means higher medical bills, more discomfort, more pain, a shorter life, and other problems.

The solution is to control your dog's insatiable appetite and thereby control his expanding girth.

While a balanced diet is fine and treats in proper amounts are fine, overindulgence leads to a “couch pet-tato.” If your dog is overweight, a change in eating habits is in order along with increased exercise and play to help work off excess calories.

Top Ten Tips to Putting Your Dog on a Diet

  1. If your dog is overweight, work with your veterinarian to develop a proper weight-reduction plan. Your veterinarian can help assess the extent of your dog's obesity problem and determine whether there are any complicating disease concerns, such as diabetes. In some cases, a prescription type of diet may be recommended.
  2. A drastic reduction isn't necessary. Except in special cases, most veterinarians recommend a moderate weight-reduction plan. Weight should be lost gradually, about 15 percent over a two- to three-month period for dogs. At maximum, weight loss should occur at a rate of 1 to 1 pounds per week for dogs. In addition to a restricted diet, you need to provide your pet with gradual increased play and exercise. Make exercise fun, not strict or stressful.
  3. Make sure that all family members stick to your dog’s weight reduction plan. One person can spoil the results.
  4. If excessive food intake was the source of your pet's obesity, plan on feeding the proper maintenance amount. In general, a small six-pound dog requires 50 calories per pound, a 50-pound dog requires 30 calories per pound and a 100-pound dog requires 23 kilocalories per pound. However, there are no hard and fast rules; your pet may need less food if he's less active or more if he's very active.
  5. To reduce your pet's food intake, feed his normal diet in reduced amounts or a diet of reduced calories in prescribed amounts. Feed smaller portions more often so that your pet doesn't feel that he's eating less.
  6. Eliminate all treats, especially from the table. These are typically high in fat and calories. Praise and affection are important to offset your pet's feeling of “punishment.”
  7. If dry food had previously been fed ad lib (left out free-choice), leave food out in portions instead of in unlimited quantities.
  8. Feed some canned food to replace some of the dry food. It will be more palatable and is lower in caloric density (since it's over 75 percent moisture).
  9. Use special foods. There are special foods available both by prescription and over-the-counter that is higher in fiber and lower in caloric and fat density. These are especially good since you can feed your pet the same “bulk amount,” while cutting back calories.
  10. Tip #10 is from the editor. Correct your own perceptions. Until you realize that fostering obesity in your pet is a form animal abuse, you may not feel properly motivated to correct your behavior. It is not a kindness to "give in" to a poorly trained pet that begs for food. It is not a kindness to make sure your pet always has food available. If you and your pet both eat sensible portions and keep your body fat levels down, you will both be happier. Remember that pleasure does not necessarily lead to happiness, but a lack of discipline always leads to unhappiness.

In addition to a restricted diet, you need to provide your pet with gradual increased play and exercise. Make exercise fun, not strict or stressful. Fun, play and games will not only help in reducing your dog’s weight but they will simultaneously keep your dog happy, and distract his mind from thinking about his loss of food. If you keep your dog's weight at a normal level, he'll be happier and healthier in a svelte condition. He'll also run, romp and enjoy life more.

Editor's note: There is no way a human or a dog can exercise enough to burn off the excess calorie burden of today's typical eating patterns, unless somehow someone rewrites the laws of physics. Managing meals is the key. See our free fitness articles at and you will find solid information to help you and your pet live happier, healthier lives.


About the Author:

Pet health specialist, Ed Kane has helped thousands of pet owners keep their dogs living longer, stronger, healthier lives with his columns revealing secrets proven to increase your dog’s lifespan. Discover how to increase your dog’s overall health and lifespan, with’s free library of over 8,000 veterinarian-approved articles at 

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