Your dog’s weight is something that you should be aware of. Too much weight in the wrong places can lead to numerous health issues – including heart disease, joint issues, and back pain. Do you have a plan?

When is a Dog Overweight?

The easiest way to determine if your dog is carrying around a few extra pounds is to use your fingers to feel around his ribs and spine region. You should be able to locate these bones very easily with just a thin layer of fat and skin in between. If you have trouble finding the ribcage, your dog has some extra fat. But is it a big deal?

As is the case with humans, terms like  “overweight” and “obese” are flippantly thrown around and used interchangeably. But if we want to have a meaningful discussion on this topic, it’s helpful to establish some clear definitions. 

“Ask your veterinarian to evaluate your pooch’s size at every check-up. Once your canine reaches maturity, ask for his optimal weight,” WebMD recommends. “As a rule of thumb, 15% above that weight is obese; zero to 15% is overweight. If your dog falls into either category, he is not alone. According to a 2011 study, 53% of dogs are overweight or obese.”

5 Healthy Weight Management Tips for Dogs

If your dog is obese, meet with your veterinarian as soon as possible to develop a plan of care to get your pet back into a reasonably healthy range. If your dog is simply overweight, you can take a more methodical approach. Suggestions include:

1. Weigh Your Dog Regularly

While you can use your fingers to feel for fat, the only way to accurately track your dog’s progress is by weighing them often. If it’s inconvenient to swing by your vet’s office, you can always do it at home. Step on the scale with your pet and record the number. Then step on by yourself and record this figure. The difference between the two is your pet’s weight. For best results, weigh your dog at the same time each week and keep a log of the data.

2. Read the Dog Food Label

Do you know what’s in your dog’s food? Read the label for ingredients. If it includes a bunch of items you can’t pronounce, then it’s probably not very healthy. Look for options with lots of fresh and natural ingredients. It’ll cost a bit a more, but it’s well worth it. 

3. Use Portion Control

As with humans, dogs gain weight when they consume more calories than they burn. Thus, the best way to keep a dog’s weight down is to lower their caloric intake. Portion control is key. Speak with your vet about how much to feed your dog and use a scoop with dedicated measurements. 

4. Be Smart With Treats

Treats are a hot button issue. On the one hand, dogs deserve treats and often need them in order to maintain proper dental health and oral hygiene. They also keep puppies out of trouble by giving them something to focus on. But too many of the wrong treats is a bad thing. For dogs on strict weight management plans, avoid the “cereal box” treats you find at supermarkets and pet stores. Anything that can be eaten in one or two bites isn’t good. All-natural chews, on the other hand, are encouraged.

“Bully sticks are moderately dense in calories, but the quality of those calories is high,” Homes Alive Pets mentions. “Bully sticks are predominantly protein, which dogs use as a primary source of energy. Bully sticks, while low in fat, do have between 9-22 calories per inch. So if your dog is eating more than he should per day, as with any treat or even his food, he will likely gain weight.”

5. Encourage Daily Exercise

Food is one part of the challenge. The other half involves physical activity. It’s highly recommended that your dog get 10 to 15 minutes of uninterrupted exercise three to four times per day. Once in the morning, afternoon, and evening should suffice.

Give Your Dog the Gift of Health

Your dog doesn’t understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy lifestyle choices, but he certainly feels the results. Do your dog a favor and help him make healthy choices. As a result, you’ll increase his chances of living a long and happy life.