Don’t wait to help your dog lose weight


In 2013, the American Medical Association defined obesity in humans as a disease. Veterinary medicine is also pushing for obesity to occur in pets of the same name. In October 2019, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) issued a statement (the “Global Pet Obesity Initiative”) calling for a unified definition of obesity in pets, a universal system for assessing body condition, and a definition of obesity as being a disease. The publication received wide support from veterinary organizations around the world.

If your dog is carrying extra pounds, he is likely not feeling well. The effect of being slightly overweight is exponentially greater and more concentrated in dogs than in humans. Obesity in dogs can not only cause a number of diseases and exacerbate others, but it can also affect normal body functions. Obese dogs are prone to developing metabolic disorders, abnormal functions in many organ systems, diabetes mellitus and insulin resistance, high blood pressure, kidney, liver and skin disorders, arthritis, problems with the bladder / urinary tract, joint and ligament problems and other orthopedic problems, thyroid disorders, Respiratory diseases, heart failure and chronic inflammation.

Research has also shown a link between obesity and cancer, but it’s not clear how it increases cancer risk. One theory suggests that excess fat around vital organs increases harmful inflammation. Over time, low-level chronic inflammation can cause DNA damage that leads to the development of cancer.

Dogs that are overweight or obese also live shorter lives – on average 21/2 years less than dogs with healthy physical conditions. A study published in 2018 examined records of more than 50,000 customer-owned, neutered dogs in 12 popular breeds over a 20-year period and found that obesity was associated with shorter lifespan in all 12 breeds. The magnitude of the effect varied and was smallest in large breed dogs (5 months) and largest in the smallest breed dogs (more than 2 years).

The good news is that many of these health concerns can be prevented, alleviated, or eliminated through proper nutrition, an active lifestyle, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Many factors affect a dog’s weight

Energy is measured in calories, and calories are essential for a body to function. However, excess energy is stored as body fat and occurs when more calories are used than are used by the body.

For some animals, fat storage can be a useful safeguard against leaner times. For example, bears spend their non-hibernating days looking for food and eating as much as possible so the body can use this extra weight (stored energy) for basic body functions during hibernation. They do this because there is no food available during the lean cold winter months. In hibernation, their bodies reduce their physiological processes to a minimum and use the stored energy to survive.

In contrast, our dogs have food available all year round and therefore do not need to store additional energy. Indeed, this added weight can be detrimental.

There are other factors besides the amount of food that can affect a dog’s weight. Calorie density (the number of calories in a serving) and digestibility of food can also play a role. Non-food factors that can affect weight include genetics, lifestyle and activity level, stage of life, climate, and even some diseases.

In October 2019 Preventive veterinary medicine published a Danish study looking for risk factors for obesity.2 The researchers found that spaying and neutering increased the risk of obesity in male dogs, but there was a risk in women, regardless of whether they were intact or neutered. Interestingly, as the dog aged, the study found that older bitches were at increased risk of obesity decreased in older men.

The same study found that owner behavior is an important factor in dog weight management. Obese owners usually gave out treats freely as a snack or when the owner eats, while non-obese owners usually gave out treats for educational purposes only. This suggests that pet and owner health are interrelated – and that weight management plans for dog and owner may be more successful when done together!


Because a dog’s ideal weight varies by breed, size, and age, and because the dog’s condition is more important than its weight, a Body Condition Score (BCS) is a more meaningful measurement than the dog’s weight alone.

The BCS guidelines call for an assessment of the condition of specific areas on a dog’s body. These ratings can then be divided into a score. The nine point scale goes from 1 to 9. A score of 1 indicates the dog is extremely thin and a score of 9 indicates that it is extremely obese. Grades of 4 and 5 are considered ideal.

The difference between the individual points in the nine-point diagram is approximately 10 to 15%. In general, a dog is considered overweight if the excess body fat is greater than or equal to 15% of the ideal value. while obesity is loosely defined as 30% above the optimum.

A BCS total score gives the owner more information about what the dog’s entire body looks and feels like – and how it should look and feel specifically. While frequent weighing is helpful in identifying small weight losses (or gains) in a dog, the BCS helps describe both the problem and the goal.

12 tips for losing weight in dogs

1. Measure out the foods in daily servings and use these foods for both treats and meals.

2. Never guess amounts. Use a food scale.

3. Familiarize yourself with the calorie measurements of your dog’s food.

4th Avoid processed goodies; Instead, look for healthy individual ingredients (like fresh vegetables and fruits) – and know how many calories they contain!

5. Use play, praise, petting (only in forms the dog likes), or attention instead of treats to reward good behavior.

6. Some dogs use foraging behaviors to attract attention. Try substituting play, petting, and other forms of interaction instead of indulging in this request for a snack.

7. Walk your dog. Gradually increase the distance as your dog builds stamina.

8. Play with your dog! Look for toys that will interest your dog and encourage movement.

9. If your dog is bored with a toy, put it away to bring it out later and try a new one.

10. If your dog likes to play with other dogs, arrange play dates with suitable play partners.

11. Move your dog’s food bowl to a different location for each meal. Turn “will find the bowl” into a “search and find” game.

12. Use a food toy (like the “Wooly” snuff mat from Paw 5 shown here) to give your dog exercise and enrichment while eating.


The first step in managing your dog’s weight condition is a spa visit to your veterinarian. When your dog is finally obese, you shouldn’t put him on a weight loss program without veterinary advice. There may be an underlying health condition that is causing the obesity. For example, hypothyroidism, hyperadrenocorticism, and Cushing’s disease can be associated with weight gain. These and other conditions need to be ruled out as possible causes or contributors to your dog’s weight problem.

Your veterinarian should test for diabetes. Obesity can make it difficult to regulate blood sugar. If your dog is diabetic, the condition needs to be stabilized before starting a new diet and monitored throughout the process so that medication adjustments can be made. If medication is not properly adjusted, it can lead to hypoglycemia, which can be fatal.

Your veterinarian can work with you to assess your dog’s body condition, muscle condition, lifestyle, and any other concurrent health conditions that may need to be managed in line with the dog’s new diet and training plan.

Importantly, your vet also calculates how many calories you should feed your dog each day. Few people seem to understand that recommended feeding amounts are based on dog food labels on dogs. ” ideal Weight. They feed the amount indicated on the dog’s label current Weight, which makes it even thicker!

Ask your veterinarian to determine your dog’s ideal weight, how many calories your dog should be eating to achieve that weight, and exactly how to adjust to a more appropriate amount from your current feeding schedule. (Note: cutting your dog’s food in half overnight can quickly lead to uncomfortable behaviors such as counter surfing, trash, aggression with your other dogs over the food, etc.)

Your veterinarian can also consult or refer you to a board certified veterinary nutritionist to help determine the best feeding options for your dog. American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN) diplomats have extensive training in nutritional management for both healthy and diseased animals. These specialist veterinarians are uniquely qualified to formulate commercial foods and dietary supplements, formulate homemade diets, manage the complex medical and nutritional needs of individual animals, and understand the underlying causes and effects of specific nutritional strategies used to prevent and treat disease .

Diet and exercise

The three basic strategies for losing weight are reducing calorie intake, increasing physical activity, and a combination of both. Weight loss is usually best achieved through the latter.

Ideally, a dog’s weight loss program is designed to give the dog enough calories to support their ideal weight, achieve weight loss, and be comfortable throughout the program. When his caloric intake is reduced to a more appropriate level (enough to meet the energy needs of his ideal weight but not enough to support his) extra Weight), your body begins to draw energy from stored weight.

Low-calorie, high-fiber foods (like green vegetables) can be beneficial to the success of a weight loss plan. Not only do they help dogs feel fuller and reduce hunger pangs, but they also reduce the calorie density of a diet so that more food can be fed.

If foods need to be reduced over long periods of time, special diets can be prescribed to ensure nutritional deficiencies do not occur. Good nutrition is necessary to maintain optimal health and to treat certain diseases.

Exercise is important to overall health, but that’s not the only reason it helps: muscles burn more calories than body fat, and increasing exercise helps build muscle mass.

Work closely with your veterinarian to develop a safe and adequate training plan as well. If your dog is not used to exercise, do not start a new regimen as it can be dangerous. Slow and steady works best as your dog’s health increases.

Kissy’s journey back to health

Kissy’s recording photo

Kissy, a 9-year-old mix of Scottish Terrier and Poodle, joined the Dogwood Animal Rescue Project (DARP, a nonprofit foster care group in Sonoma County, California) in mid-April 2020, when it was apparent that she was putting a lot of extra weight on had her little body; She got 9 points on the BCS (Body Condition Score) scale. It was so heavy that it had difficulty walking – even crossing a 2-inch barrier was a challenge. It was also immediately apparent that she was aptly named: Jessica, her caregiver, describes her as a cute, gentle girl who always wants to kiss but is a little shy.

Kissy and her foster mother

Kissy’s veterinary examination revealed that she had a dental disease, which is why she was cleaned with extractions. Jessica also noticed that Kissy drank too much water and was sluggish; The vet found that she had a urinary tract infection (UTI). Not long after she started taking antibiotics to treat urinary tract infections, her energy levels rose and her behavior became much happier and more sociable. It was impossible to determine whether secondary health problems caused Kissy’s obesity (for example, the results of her Cushing test were inconclusive) or whether obesity caused secondary diseases. In any case, she had to lose weight, so a veterinarian-monitored program was introduced.

Kissy’s diet consists of precisely measured foods given twice a day and regular treats of carrots and green beans. Jessica started them on slow walks. At first Kissy didn’t seem to understand what a walk was! With gentle training and encouragement from Jessica’s other two dogs, Kissy discovers the joy of walking and begins to sniff and absorb the adventure.

In addition to her individual short walks, which get longer with increasing health, Jessica takes her on more intense outings with her dogs by bringing Kissy with her in a stroller. She is easy going but doesn’t want to be left out of the fun! Jessica also found out that Kissy loves chasing balls, and that was originally part of her exercise routine. Unfortunately, Kissy had a hind leg lameness and was diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Until this can be fixed (possibly with surgery after she has lost more weight), her exercise is limited to walking.

With the change in diet and gentle exercise, Kissy has lost 4 pounds in six weeks; This has improved their health and future, and their world has blossomed. DARP will continue to provide the care she needs until she is moved to a permanent home. Current information about Kissy can be found on the DARP Facebook page: At the time of going to press, CARP accepts Application for adoption by Kissy. To apply or support DARP’s mission (rescue, rehabilitation, spay / neuter, education), see

Reasons to go slow

Dog weight loss programs can be long term projects, and healthy weight maintenance is lifelong. Although the time it takes for a dog to return to ideal body weight varies, don’t be surprised if it takes nine months or more to achieve this goal. Focus on incremental achievements like improving BCS or reducing a health problem.

Also, remember that it doesn’t take a lot of weight loss to make a dog feel better. Even modest losses can be beneficial. A 2010 study found that obese dogs with concurrent arthritis had noticeably improved mobility after only 6% weight loss.

A position paper from the University of California School of Veterinary Medicine (Davis) (“Nutritional Management of Weight”) recommends that dogs lose no more than 2% of their body weight per week. When the rate of loss exceeds this level, dogs may feel hungry and behave in search of food. Worse, your metabolism can slow down (making weight loss difficult) and muscle mass can be lost when the body burns muscle tissue for energy instead of body fat. After starting a weight loss program, regular checkups and weighings are needed to make sure the approach is working and continuing to work. Often times, a plan needs to be adjusted to maintain optimal effectiveness.


In 2017 PLOS One published the results of a three-month observational study of weight loss in 926 overweight dogs conducted in 340 veterinary practices in 27 countries. The dogs were given a commercially available dry or wet diet for weight loss; The amounts fed were determined according to the estimated ideal weight of the dog.

The short duration of the study did not allow most dogs to reach their goal weight, but owners still reported positive changes, including improved activity and quality of life.

But the study Likewise highlighted the problem of non-compliance by the owner. The success of a weight loss program depends on the owners; Owner compliance is often a challenge for veterinarians. In this study, nearly 40% of owners who enrolled their dogs did not complete the study, similar to other weight loss field studies.

It is our responsibility to protect our dogs – we all agree on that. So remember, by keeping your dog slim you are helping to prevent them from developing debilitating diseases and leading them to live longer, healthier and happier lives. Remember when he asks for treats and give him a carrot! He’ll do better.

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