Overweight Pets

By: DogTrekker Staff

By Dr. Angela Gaeto, DVM, of the Helen Woodward Animal Center community in San Diego County.

What is considered a good weight?

Due to the wide variety of breeds of dogs there is no set ideal weight for every pet. Veterinarians typically use a scale from 1-9 called body condition scoring to determine where your pet's weight falls on the ideal scale for its frame. On this scale 4-5 is ideal for dogs.

The scale takes into account observable and palpable features that can be easily assessed. These include a discernible waist behind the ribs and an abdominal tuck observable from behind the ribs and below the waist. This shows the overall distribution of fat. It also takes into account breeds that may have larger rib cages but should still have slimmer abdominal features.

Palpable features include areas of fat covering the ribs, spine and hip bones. These should cover the bones enough to have them not protruding under the skin but still be easily felt during an examination. Scores between 1-3 include dogs who are below the ideal weight and should increase their weight and scores between 6-9 are dogs that need to lose weight. Most household pets are either ideal weight or overweight.

Exercise changes

Many of the same principles of weight management for people also apply to animals. Therefore exercise regimens should be tailored to a pet’s specific needs and interests. Use your pet’s favorite activities to encourage more exercise.

If you have a more toy-motivated dog then use toys to encourage them to move around. If your dog doesn’t normally play with toys then use their desire to eat to get them active. There are many toys designed to hold food and slowly distribute out the kernels as the dog moves the toy around.

Many animals have physical limitations that prevent certain kinds of exercise and may even be a result of their weight. Therefore, weight loss should include activities the dog enjoys as well as activities that they are capable of. Taking an overweight, inactive dog on long walks right away may be very difficult and painful for them. It is important to start slow and make long term changes.

Photo Credit: swong95765 (CC)