Canine Obesity – A HUGE Problem….

Ever notice when you are sitting in the waiting room at the vet’s office just how many obese dogs waddle past you on their way into the exam room?  Its obscene.  According to the AVMA, an estimated 40% of pets in the US are overweight – that’s more than 17 million dogs.  In a society that seems incredibly preoccupied with keeping our pets healthy and with us for a long as possible, why would we take the risk of losing them early due to something as simple as over feeding??  It boggles the mind. (

Being overweight or obese can cause a myriad of health problems for our pets.  Arthritis or other joint disease, heart

While this may be an extreme example, canine obesity is not a laughing matter.

problems, diabetes, breathing problems, stress on the body that simply doesn’t need to be there.  As human beings we often try to live our lives in a healthy manner – eating right, getting exercise, avoiding the pitfalls of being fat.  Why wouldn’t we insist on the same for our dogs?  If keeping them exercised and lean will keep them healthy and alive longer than what would stop us?  Judging from the number of obese dogs there doesn’t seem to be an answer to that question.

One thought is that people actually don’t have any idea what constitutes a good body type in a dog.  Perhaps being so used to seeing SO MANY fat dogs they start to believe that its the norm.  How can you tell?

First off you should easily be able to lay your hands on either side of your dog’s rib cage and feel the ribs with little or no pressure.  If you have to dig for the rib your dog is fat.  Breed can matter – its normal for greyhounds and other sighthounds to show ribs but not for labradors and goldens and many others.  Under the layer of skin, thin muscle and perhaps a slight layer of fat, you should be able to feel them, count them and not have to push through mush in order to do so.

Second, look for their tummy tuck.  A dog’s stomach shouldn’t go straight from chest to back end – there should be a graceful “tuck up” where the belly lies.  If you can’t see any tuck, your dog is fat.

Lastly, check out your dog from above.  What do you see when looking directly down at him?  Is he straight from withers to tail?  No indentation right about where his waist should be?  Dogs should have an “hourglass” figure with a definite waist.  If you have a fluffy pooch, use your hands to feel the shape – the same hourglass should still be there fur or not.  If your dog is even more obese, you will start to see bulges of fat on either side of where the waist should be as well as fat at the base of the tail.  These two things should never be present – if they are, you have a fat dog.  (

While there can be medical considerations that cause your dog to retain weight (hypothyroidism comes to mind),

Feeding an all meat treat without additives can be a great way to be sure you aren’t harming your dog by adding extra sugar to their diet

usually it is because we over feed.  This doesn’t just mean we give too much food – it often means we give too many treats.  Remember that any treats you give HAVE to be counted towards your dog’s total daily intake of food.  Commercial treats are usually high in fat and high in sugars – both to blame for weight gain in commercially fed dogs.  Imagine if you fed your kids a box of donuts every single time they wanted a snack…feeding several of these treats in a sitting is essentially the same thing.

Overfeeding,  the foods you actually feed and lack of exercise are probably the three biggest reasons for canine obesity.

Overfeeding is a problem for many whether you feed raw, cooked or commercial foods.  Of course, the makeup of commercial kibble as a whole, is a factor simply because it is full of carbs which turn to sugars which are then turned to fats.  Overfeeding that same kibble is a disaster on top of an existing disaster and most assuredly equals a fat doggy.  Raw and cooked foods are easier to deal with considering that we KNOW what is actually in the food BUT overfeeding is still an issue.  Often, when new to raw, people overfeed because it is hard to get used to feeding such a smaller amount than they used to with kibble.  If they were feeding 4 cups of kibble per day previously to their 50 pound dog, the general rule of 1 pound per day of raw seems paltry.  Remember that if your dog is looking a little chubby, its easy enough to simply CUT BACK the amount that they are eating.  Yes, your dog may tell you in the myriad of ways that dogs have that they are STARVING to death and you must feed them more BUT remember that you know best!  For their health we honestly need to not give in and take a chance at being known as “mean mommy” or “mean daddy” once in awhile – you know they’ll forgive you!

Watch what you actually feed your dog.  If you feed kibble, check the ingredients.  Many commercial kibbles have plenty of sugar added.  Look for all different kinds of sugar as well as carbs in the forms of grains and starches.  If you feed raw, you don’t need to worry about sugars and carbs – raw meat just doesn’t have any!  If you feed veggies try to go with less sugary vegetables and fruits ignoring items like carrots and apples.

Lack of exercise is far to prevalent in our society both for pets AND people.  Walk your dog, bike your dog, actively play with your dog.  Letting them out in the backyard whether alone or with a buddy is NOT exercising your dog.  Just like humans, dogs need to get the proper amount of exercise from puppyhood on to avoid weight gain.  A sensible diet isn’t enough – exercise must play a part.