How To Tell If Your Dog Is Overweight

Let’s start with the facts: Over half the dogs in the United States are overweight. Much like how we ignore a few pounds we might be gaining in ourselves, many pet owners overfeed their pets and ignore the weight gain. 

We understand how difficult it is to ignore your pet’s cute begging or how happy it makes them to get treats. Unfortunately, pet owners must be vigilant about weight gain as even a handful of pounds can dramatically impact the health and wellbeing of your dog.  

As always, the best place for nutrition and health information is your veterinarian. However, owners must be able to recognize whether their dog is in a healthy weight range or whether they are overweight.

The Signs of An Overweight Dog

There are a few things to look for if you’re trying to evaluate your dog’s weight. These signs must be evaluated along with information about the breed and your pet’s specific health condition.  Obviously, a pug is going to have a different healthy weight from a bulldog.

Here are the things to look for to determine if your dog is overweight:

  • General Shape and Size – Grossly overweight dogs are easy to spot with larger bodies where the stomach doesn’t line up with the hips. As an owner, you have to pay attention to smaller changes along your dog’s ribs and stomach area.
  • Definition of Ribs and Stomach – If your dog is underweight, the ribs are extremely visible and the dog seems like it has no meat on its bones. Conversely, overweight dogs have no rib definition at all. This is a warning sign of overweight dogs.
  • Trouble with Mobility and Breathing – If your dog seems easily winded or fatigued and can’t get around like they used to, it may be a sign that they are overweight.
  • No Self Grooming – If your dog cannot reach around and groom themselves like before, this could be due to weight gain. Especially in dogs with large coats or a lot of hair, the extra weight may not be immediately visible to the eye.
  • Intestinal or Stomach Issues – One sign of overeating in dogs is an increase in gas or difficulty with excretion. Their bodies may be struggling to process food especially if they are given a lot of human food.

The Knuckle Test

One way you can check your dog’s general weight and health is with the knuckle test. This is a test that is supposed to approximate what a healthy dog’s ribs should feel like in comparison to under or overweight dogs.

First, start by feeling the knuckles of one hand when your hand is in a relaxed position. This ratio of flesh to bone is ideal. Next, make a fist with your hand and feel the knuckles that way. Finally, stretch your fingers back so your knuckles are minimally visible and touch them again.

The sensation of your knuckles is supposed to match a dog’s weight status.  Feel along your dog’s chest and ribs. If there is no definition or there is too much flesh and no bone, the dog is overweight. In contrast, if you can’t feel any meat and the bones stick out prominently, this could be a sign that your dog is underweight. The ideal is somewhere in the middle, a mix of flesh and bone.

Professional Help

For humans, the health and diet industry is everywhere. It makes a lot of money and the ratio of good to bad information isn’t always great. Unfortunately, pet health is in the same state. There are many websites and other resources with bad information. Sometimes, this information is intentionally bad to sell a product, other times it is from well-intentioned but misinformed people.

Ultimately, your pet’s health is best evaluated by a professional. At Riverside Animal Care, our veterinarians work with professional pet nutritionists who can help devise the perfect diet to either get your dog back into shape or keep them there. This combination of food science and veterinary expertise is the best way to keep your pet happy and healthy.

If you’re concerned that your dog is overweight or want to learn more about pet nutrition, contact us today at Riverside Animal Care.