We see the statistics in the news – obesity in the US pet population is exploding – with the number of obese dogs up 98% since 2007. Now, 1 in 5 dogs is obese and over 50% of the canine population is either obese or overweight.
Source: Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 2016
Pet parents are typically unaware that their dog has a problem with their weight (95% of pet parents with overweight pets identify their pet as having a normal weight) and some veterinarians are hesitant to discuss the subject during routine exams. As a result, pet parents need to get educated on the signs of obesity. Source: DVM360.com, 2015
The Cost of Canine Obesity Canine obesity costs US pet parents in excess of $200 million a year in medical costs as obese dogs are at risk for a number of serious diseases including diabetes and cancer. Preventing your dog from becoming obese is the best way to avoid some serious bills at the vet! Source: C+R analysis of Nationwide Insurance Report, 2018
Know your BCS So how do you know if your dog is obese or overweight? One way is to determine their body condition score or BCS. The process takes about 2-3 minutes and is time well spent!
Step 1: Visual Inspection
Have your dog stand up so you can view them from 2-3 feet away. Can you see a rise in their belly between their stomach and back legs? This is known as the “abdominal tuck”. It should be clearly visible but not overly pronounced (see image above). If the abdominal tuck is slight or doesn’t exist at all, this is a sign that your dog may be overweight.
Now stand over your dog. Can you see an indentation or curvature before the hips? This is considered the dog’s waist and there should be enough curve for you to place your hands in the indentation (see image 2). If there is no indentation or curvature at the waist, this is a sign your dog may be overweight.
Step 2: Physical Inspection
Now run your hands along the rib cage. You should be able to feel each rib, but not in between each rib (the sign of an underweight dog). The ribs should feel smooth like there is a small layer of fat over them. If you can’t feel ribs at all, this is a sign your dog may be overweight.
Step 3: Assign a Body Condition Score (BCS)
Using one of the handy BCS charts provided by the World Small Animal Veterinary Council assign your dog a Body Condition Score. If your dog receives a BCS above what is considered a healthy weight, this is a sign your dog may be overweight.
Step 4: Benchmark Your Dog’s Weight
The last step in determining if your dog is obese or overweight is a simple weight check. You can then compare their weight to the healthy range for your dog’s breed. We really like the ranges provided by petobesityprevention.org
What to do if your dog is obese or overweight
- Exercise. Gradually increase your dog's exercise level. This can happen by increasing the frequency, duration or intensity of exercise. Generally speaking, small breeds and puppies need less exercise than large breeds and adult dogs.
- How Much? Not sure how much exercise your dog needs? Check out this great website from the Kennel Club of the UK with exercise recommendations for dozens of different dog breeds.
- Dring Water. While exercising be sure that both pet and pet parent have access to plenty of fresh, filtered, water. Read more tips on proper hydration for dogs HERE
- Eat Less. Reduce your dog's caloric intake. Do this gradually, in small increments, as you do not want to see rapid changes in your dog's weight.
- Foods to Avoid. Avoid "Reduced Calorie" or "Weight Control" dog food. Generally speaking, these foods just replace quality protein and carbs with fiber as a means to reduce calorie consumption. Something you can do yourself by reducing the amount you feed your dog!!
- Check with Your Vet. As always, consult your veterinarian before making any significant changes to your dog's diet for input. Veterinarians see the toll that obesity is taking on the US pet population and your vet will be a great resource for your dog's weight loss journey!
The COAST+RANGE Difference
As a COAST+RANGE subscriber, you won't have to guess how much food to give your dog to maintain a healthy weight. Our nutrition experts create a personalized feeding plan for every dog we feed and regularly check in to see how your dog is performing on the plan. We make adjustments to the feeding plan as needed and only ship the amount of food your dog needs to maintain that healthy weight.
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The team at COAST+RANGE