For stylist Marissa Gimeno, 32, of Brooklyn, N.Y., it didn’t take help from a rocket scientist -- or even a veterinarian -- for her to realize that her 8-year-old dog, Lolita, needed to slim down. "She was about 2 pounds overweight," she says. "For a Chihuahua, that’s hard to miss."
To tell if your pet could shed a few pounds, feel around his ribs and spine. You should be able to locate both with only a thin layer of fat separating the skin from the bones. If you can’t find the ribcage, you have an overweight dog.
Ask your veterinarian to evaluate your pooch’s size at every check-up. Once your canine reaches maturity, ask for his optimal weight. 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.
Tips for Weighing Your Dog
Hit the scales periodically (weekly or monthly) to make sure your dog is on track.
"Your vet will be happy to let you use the scale at the office," says Louise Murray, DVM, director of medicine for the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital.
If that’s not convenient, step on a scale at home. Then step on again, this time holding your pet. The difference between the two weights is how much your dog weighs. For small breeds, invest in a baby scale.
"Regardless of the method, it’s imperative that your pet is weighed on the same scale consistently," says Todd R. Tams, DVM, and chief medical officer of VCA Antech.
Overweight Dogs: Blame the Breed
Some breeds are prone to obesity, while others (Greyhounds, German Shepherds, Yorkshire Terriers), are typically slim. Small breeds with a propensity for heftiness include:
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
Bernese Mountain Dogs
Are You Making Your Dog Fat?
Another, non-genetic reason for an overweight dog is more obvious: YOU, the owner, may be overindulging your pet, most likely with treats or people food.
"Food is love, and people want to make their pets happy," Tams says. "Very often, it is not the dog’s official food that is causing the weight problem; it is all the additional treats or snacks between meals," Murray says.
Portion Control Is Key
Knowing the correct serving size of food for your overweight dog is imperative for success. Companies often place information on labels or include charts on their web sites. But because many variables, such as size, are factored into the equation, get advice from your veterinarian on how often and how much to feed your dog.