It is important that you learn to recognize whether or not your dog needs to lose a few pounds. This isn’t as hard as you might think, but you need to take off those rose colored glasses, and be honest.
Keep in mind that that dogs, much like humans, come in many different shapes and sizes. You should be familiar with what’s normal for for your particular breed of dog. Generally speaking, there are several indicators that you can watch out for to make sure that your dog is not obese or overweight.
First, keep an eye out for increased fat over your dog’s ribcage. If you run your hand over his ribs you should be able to feel each rib distinctly. There should be some fat covering the ribs, but not enough to make it difficult to actually feel them.
After checking the ribcage the next thing you should look at is your dog’s waist. It should be very easy to visualize his waist. Stand above your dog and look down at him while he is standing on all four legs. Look at the area between the ribs and the hips. Your dog’s waist should be easy to see as a narrowing of his body. If you cannot see the waist at all, he is overweight. If the area where the waist should be is actually wider than his ribcage or hips, then he is more than likely obese.
Another simple way to gauge whether or not your dog is suffering from obesity is to run your hands over his body. As you do this, pay attention to what you are feeling. Can you feel his hips, spine or shoulders? Much like the ribcage, you should generally be able to feel these bones under a thin layer of fat. If you cannot feel them, there is a very good chance your dog is overweight.
The final method to assess whether or not your dog is overweight is to look for an abdominal tuck. All dogs should have an abdominal tuck. Look at your dog from the side, and you should see a narrowing upwards of the underside of his body, just after his rib cage. Keep in mind that how obvious the abdominal tuck is can vary greatly from one dog breed to the next, and with gender – female dogs that have had puppies may have some loose skin which can disguise their tucked up tummy.
If, after careful inspection, you decide your dog is too curvy, what do you need to do? Firstly, pop off to your vet for a health check to make sure there’s no medical reason for his weight gain. You’ll be battling to trim him down if he has hypothyroidism, for example. The main part of losing weight is diet. Reduce the number of calories in by switching to a weight loss diet, controlling how much you put in your dog’s dinner bowl and cutting out those between-meal treats. You can’t out-exercise a bad diet and until he loses some weight, he won’t be able to comfortably exercise enough to burn up calories. It’s a long slow process and it takes persistence and commitment from you, but it will eventually work.
Many dog owners aren’t objective when evaluating their dog’s body condition. They blame the expanding waistline on “big bones” or “lots of hair”. Don’t make this mistake – be realistic and if your dog is a bit generous around the middle, then take steps to remedy the situation.