Pet Obesity

As many of us embark on New Year’s resolution diet and fitness regimes, lots of our dogs would benefit from accompanying us. Over 50% of dogs in the UK are overweight, and usually for the same reasons that humans are – taking in more energy than we are using up. Too many treats, over feeding and lack of appropriate exercise slowly but surely piles the pounds on.

Being overweight leaves pets at greater risk of conditions like diabetes, cancer, heart disease and arthritis and studies have shown that it can dramatically reduce their overall life expectancy. 

Identifying that there is a problem is the first step. You can ‘body condition score’ your dog at home:

•    Look at your dog’s body shape from above. They should curve in behind the rib cage, giving an obvious waistline – like an hourglass shape. An overweight dog lacks definition around the waist and will be a similar width all the way along their body. 

•    Look at your dog from the side. The tummy should be tucked up as it meets the hind legs, higher than the chest. An overweight dog will have a tummy in line with or hanging lower than the chest.

These observations are easy in short coated dogs but thick coats can cover a multitude of sins. Here we need to get our hands on the dog to see what’s going on underneath. 

•    Run your hands along the spine, the points of the hips and the tops of the shoulders. They should be covered by a layer of muscle and fat, but still able to be felt with light pressure. In an overweight dog they will be covered by pads of fat. 

•    Place your hands on your dog’s ribs. Individual ribs should be easily felt with flat fingertips and minimal pressure. An overweight dog’s ribs are covered in a layer of fat, making them hard to feel. 

If your dog is overweight, the most immediate thing you can do to help is just making sure they are being fed the right amount of their current diet. They should be fed for their target weight (which may not be their current weight) and the food weighed out. Set some of this ration aside to use as ‘treats’ – and check that other members of the household aren’t giving them extra. 

Your vet or vet nurse will be more than happy to help with assessing your pet’s body condition, recording their weight and giving advice on diet and exercise.