Canine obesity is a serious threat to their health. As few as five pounds above a dog’s ideal body weight can risk the development of some serious medical conditions. Unfortunately, when a dog is overweight or obese, it no longer is a question of “if” the dog will develop a condition secondary to the excess weight, but “how many and how soon”.
Identifying if a dog is overweight or obese is dependent on the overall Body Condition Score (BCS) and Muscle Condition Score (MCS).
BCS is used to identify if the dog is thin, at ideal weight, overweight, or obese, and MCS is used to identify the dog’s muscle amount. The BCS and MCS are not directly related to each other as dogs with a high BCS can have a low MCS. Therefore, it is important to look at both of these condition scores separately when assessing a dog’s physical condition.
Body Condition Score Chart (BCS)
Muscle Condition Score Chart (MCS)
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) in a 2018 National Pet Obesity Survey, it was reported that 55.8% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese – this is an estimated 50 million dogs (which is based on 2018 pet population projections provided by the American Pet Products Association)!
Many pet parents are often left feeling overwhelmed on how to appropriately help their dog lose weight. Overcoming canine obesity requires:
These three components are the key to success when creating and implementing a fitness routine for overweight and obese dogs.
Medical & Physical Exam
There are two reasons to have an overweight or obese dog complete a full veterinary exam when beginning a fitness program – to rule out medical conditions, and to clear physical injuries to begin an exercise program.
There are medical conditions that can result in unwanted weight gain and it is important to rule out any potential medical conditions that may be causing obesity. The two main medical conditions that can cause weight gain include:
In addition to ruling out medical conditions, it is important to get vet clearance to begin exercising an overweight or obese dog. Excess weight can cause physical pain and injuries, it is important to rule out any limitations the dog might have, which may include:
A thorough health and physical examination by a veterinarian is recommended as step one for overcoming canine obesity. The dog can begin a diet and exercise program once the dog is cleared from medical conditions and physical limitations.
The second component of overcoming canine obesity is to evaluate the dog’s present diet and make the necessary adjustments to promote weight loss. It is important to adopt a feeding schedule, portion control, calorie restriction, and low fat diets for overweight and obese dogs.
Controlling the diet is a major component for overcoming canine obesity and should not be overlooked when adopting a fitness program for overweight and obese dogs. Once the dog has achieved ideal body weight and condition, the diet should be adjusted to meet the nutritional needs for daily maintenance without a focus on low fat.
The third component of a successful weight loss program for dogs includes physical exercise. Increasing physical exercise increases calorie burning which promotes weight loss in overweight and obese dogs. The exercise program should be strategically created to slowly introduce daily physical exercise, establish a fitness routine, and increase the intensity of the exercises
Weight loss increases when a daily fitness program is established. It is recommended to use physical exercise as a major component in a weight loss program, but should be created and executed strategically to prevent injury as well as develop a positive experience.
A Plan For Success
Overcoming canine obesity is not a quick and easy solution. There are various components to successfully overcome canine obesity:
It takes work, time, and patience to help dogs lose weight and achieve physical fitness, but when all the steps are taken and consistently followed, dogs can overcome and prevent obesity!