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Is My Dog Fat? 3 Signs Sparky is Not Eating Right

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Signs of dog obesity

Did you know that the recommended amount of food to feed your dog listed on the dogfood bag may be inaccurate and could lead to obesity? Here’s what you need to know to keep your pooch fit and trim for good health.


Earlier, we discussed about a post-Christmas puppy warning for pet owners who might be giving their pooches a common popular treat that could be a ticket to a Vet’s emergency care clinic. Hopefully, the word is out and you are feeding him or her only these recommended snacks from the kitchen in addition to commercial dog food that fits the nutritional requirements for raising a healthy canine.

However, there are some caveats to follow when it comes to what’s on the label.

According to an FDA Consumer Update, obesity is not just for humans—pets are growing bigger too. According to a 2015 survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 58% of cats and 54% of dogs in the United States are overweight.

“Just as obesity has become a serious problem in people, it’s also a growing problem in pets, one that can seriously harm your pet’s health,” says Carmela Stamper, a veterinarian in the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Among CVM’s responsibilities are making sure that food for animals—which includes animal feed, pet food, and pet treats—is properly labeled with truthful claims, and is safe for animals and the people who handle it.

The problem with obesity is that just like with humans, animals too are affected by many of the same medical conditions associated with obesity such as Type 2 Diabetes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, heart and respiratory disease, and kidney disease.

“We want our pets to live happy lives, but we also want them to live long ones,” Stamper says.

So, Just How Fat is Too Fat?

According to the FDA, 20 percent over ideal body weight in pets is considered obese. However, that ideal weight is relative, depending on the animal’s breed, age, body type, and metabolism. Therefore, going by what the label on your dogfood bag recommends could potentially be on the overfeeding side of what your pooch really needs. The key here is to show your veterinarian a photo of the nutrition label from the dogfood bag and ask him to assess whether your dog needs more, less, or is currently consuming the right amount for its breed, age and activity level.

That assessment made by the vet is typically a body condition scoring system used for both dogs and cats, that ranks over a 1-5 point scale with a “1” being very skinny, and a “5” being obese.

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Signs Your Dog is Not Eating Right

If you are not sure whether or not your dog might be obese (or too thin), here are some simple signs you can look for that can serve as a general guide as to whether your dog is eating right or not.

• Look at your animal from above. Does your pet have a definite waist? “If not, and her back is broad and flat like a footstool, she is likely overweight,” Stamper says.

• Run your hands along your animal’s side. Can you easily feel the ribs, or do you have to push hard to feel them? Are they too prominent?

• Does your animal have a “tucked” abdomen, or a sagging stomach? If you can easily grab a handful of fat, that’s a sign your animal is overweight.

Why Knowing Your Pet’s Weight is So Important

When you see your primary care doctor, typically the first thing he or she does is have you stand on a scale to get your weight. With pets, it’s no different because weight is an objective measure that can indicate something health-wise may be going on since the last visit. For example, when a dog or cat that normally enjoys eating, but then begins leaving its normally empty bowl partially filled, subsequent weight loss shown on the scales can be a symptom of a serious health problem that needs medical attention.

The point here is that it’s a good idea to be as familiar with your pet’s health as you are with yours. To help guide you on what more you can do to ensure that you are taking good care of your pet, here’s a Video by the FDA on questions you should ask your vet.

For an informative article about sharing your good health with your pet, here’s how dogs and their owners can exercise together with “Doga.”

Reference: FDA.gov Consumer Updates “Is My Dog or Cat a Healthy Weight? Important Questions to Ask the Vet”

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