Fit or Fat

Overweight is...
  • The most common and easiest-to-fix dog health danger1,2
  • Caused by owners (except in rare instances)

  • Abuse.  Overfeeding your dog is animal abuse.
    • To see what this abuse looks like, search Google Images for 'overweight dogs.'
  • Target weight.  Each dog has an ideal weight that may change slightly with season and age.  My senior dog’s weight increases about 2-3 pounds during winter because she exercises less. I decrease her food quantity slightly to manage her target weight.
  • Senior dogs & arthritis.  Senior dogs often develop arthritis in front and rear leg joints.  Excess weight puts added and unnecessary pressure on these joints.  This added pressure means more pain.
    • The first and most important step in caring for a dog with arthritis is to reduce her weight.
  • Optimum.  Fit (thin) dogs typically live longer healthier lives than overweight dogs.  Isn't that what you want for her?


The #1 cause of fat dogs is – Humans!
Why? Dogs no longer must work to find their own food. They merely find their food bowl.  And, the food bowl is filled with processed carbohydrates (manufactured kibble) rather than the real meat and bones a dog’s body evolved to thrive on.  If this causes you to reflect and compare to your own food choices—you’re getting it!
Simple math:
Calories In > Calories Out = Overweight
(more calories consumed than burned = fat dog)

Results of Overweight

    Increased disease risk to immune, cardiovascular, respiratory, skeletal, etc., systems.

Statistics & Data

    Over 20% of USA dogs are overweight4 – exceeding weight appropriate for their body structure.  Some surveys indicate that upwards of 80% of dogs seen by veterinarians are overweight.
  • Overweight = 10-15% above ideal weight.
  • Obese = over 15% above ideal weight5. Body weight beyond skeletal and physical limits caused by excess body fat.

Dogs prone to overweight

    Cairn Terriers, Dachshunds, Scottish Terriers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Newfoundlands, and Saint Bernards.

How overweight happens

Wrong food
.  Feeding poor quality kibble, high in grains and processed carbohydrates, rather than real meat protein.

    Healthy treats are as important as healthy food.  I treat the Golden Girls with Orijen Six Fish.  They get no more than a dozen or so per day.
.  Feeding unhealthy and or too many treats without a corresponding reduction in meal size.
Too much food.  Feeding to present weight rather than optimum weight5. Leaving food out more than 15 minutes often leads to fat dogs.
Not enough exercise. Dogs need enough exercise to burn up the food calories they consume or they get fat (like us).
Medical.  A very small percent of overweight dogs are the result of medical problems. Therefore, a visit to your vet to rule out medical problems is important.

Age, Stress, & Overweight

    Senior dogs need as much, if not more, high quality protein in their diet than they did as adult dogs.  Do not feed ‘senior’ or ‘lite’ kibble to older dogs.  Instead, feed premium quality meat-based, high protein (30%+) diet to maintain ideal weight, or switch to real food.
. As they age, dogs work and play less and therefore burn fewer calories.  Unless food quantity (not quality) is reduced, older dogs get fat. Feed less and encourage gentle exercise for older dogs.
Stress. Stress causes body systems to behave abnormally and frequently leads to fat accumulation (like us).

What to do

.  First, have your veterinarian check for possible medical conditions.
Feed Less.  If feeding manufactured dog food (kibble), select a premium quality product (usually NOT one heavily advertised or sold at veterinary clinics).  Feed to gradually reduce weight 3-5% per week; then 1% per week as dog nears ideal weight6. If feeding Real Food, simply gradually reduce amount fed.
Exercise. 150 minutes minimum of exercise a week (20-25 min/day) for healthy adult dogs. Adjust for individual dogs.
Snacks & Treats. Stop!  Don’t do it!  Ignore the ‘begging’.  Train your dog not to beg by training yourself not to feed - don't reinforce the dog's behavior.  Feeding a begging overweight dog is animal abuse!  Nothing less!   However, if you feed reward treats, you must also reduce quantity of mealtime food.
Your Dog's Look & Feel
    The simplest way to check your dog's weight is by looking at her profile and  overhead view.  Dog's with thick coats are easily checked by feeling her body with your hands.

    Ribs felt with very little fat covering.  From above: waist is visible and easily felt behind ribs.  From side: abdomen tucked up.  Like us, thinner is healthier; but not too thin.

    Ribs barely felt with heavy fat cover. From above: waist barely visible or felt.  From side: slight abdominal tuck.

Weight - Obese
    Unable to feel ribs under heavy fat cover.  From above: no waist, possible bulge (dog looks like a sausage). From side: no abdominal tuck; possible distension. Fat deposits over shoulders, lower back, and base of tail.