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May, 2020

Canine Obesity – Watch Your Dogs Waistline

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We are currently living in the age of the Covid-19 Pandemic, affecting the entire world, a scary and unknown phenomena that will surely bring with it a new “normal”.   There is however another international epidemic we should sit up and take notice of, Pet Dog Obesity.  According to a paper published by Alexander J. German obesity is now recognised as the most important medical disease in pets worldwide. In a blog posting written for Allianz, Pete Wedderburn (Pete the Vet) states that “around one-third of all pets are too fat”, staggering to say the least!  In much the same vein the UK Kennel Club states that obesity is “sadly an extremely common problem affecting our pets”.

When asked about their pets weight many owners do not recognise the fact that their dog is overweight.  I strongly believe that we need to be more vigilant when it comes to our dogs’ weight management.


Conditions linked to canine obesity

Here are some of the most listed conditions overweight and obese dogs may develop:

  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Osteoarthritis – Degenerative joint disease
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Heat intolerance
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Increased anaesthesia and surgical risks
  • Reduced liver function
  • Depressed immune system
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Decreased life span – it is estimated that being overweight can decrease a dog’s lifespan by up to 1.8 years.


Food for thought (Pardon the pun!)

Just think about the last point, being overweight or obese can shorten a dog’s lifespan by up to 1.8 years!  We have our beloved dogs for such a short period of time and we do everything in our power to keep them safe and healthy, yet, the one thing that can and probably does have a direct impact on their lifespan, weight management, tend to be overlooked.  The saying “killing them with kindness” suddenly becomes a shocking reality.

When discussing nutrition, I am quite often made aware of the fact that portion control guidelines given by food manufacturers are not followed.   While chatting with clients about the portion sizes they give their dogs, I am often told that the dog gets “a cup full”.  Then, following a portion control exercise it quickly becomes clear that the “cup full” does not tally up with manufacturer guidelines.

It is also important to know that different pet foods have different densities and therefore different weights.  Accurate measurements are necessary for different dog foods, i.e. 80g of one food might have a very different volume amount to the same weight in a different food.  It is therefore important that whenever a different food is introduced that that food be measured out in accordance with specifications.

Remember to keep track of any treats your dog may get during the day.  Those yummy treats increase your dog’s daily calory intake, so you need to consider adjusting portion size.  I am by no means suggesting that you do not give your dog treats, my lads regularly get yummy stuff, but like us, please make sure to adjust portion sizes.

A good habit to get into is to periodically do a body condition score (BCS) to help you keep your eye on your dogs’ waistline.  A body condition score can help assess whether your dog is underweight, overweight or in ideal condition.

Click HERE to download our FREE easy to follow Body Conditioning Score poster.


How to do a Body Conditioning Score


  1. Rib Check
    • Get your dog comfortable and run both of your palms across their rib cage, one hand on either side, simply note how it feels and compare it to the chart
  2. Profile Check
    • View your standing dog from a side-on angle. It is best if you are level with your dog, so you get the most accurate view.
  3. Overhead Check
    • Look down at your standing dog from an overhead angle.
  4. Scoring The Test
    • Your dog is underweight if:
      • Ribs, spine and/or pelvic bones are visible from a distance.
    • Your dog’s body score is ideal if:
      • You can feel ribs upon gentle petting.
      • Their waist should be easily visible from above (look for an hour-glass shape).
      • The abdomen should be tucked up towards their pelvis when viewed from the side.
    • Your dog is overweight if:
      • Their ribs can be felt only with pressure being applied because of a heavy fat cover.
      • Viewed from the top the dog gives the appearance of a table.
      • The abdomen is distended, i.e. your dog suffers from “hanging belly”.



German, Alexander. J. “Weight Management in Obese Pets: The Tailoring Concept and how it can Improve Results.”. Animal Obesity – causes, consequences and comparative aspects. Uppsala, Sweden. 14-16 June 2015

Wedderburn, Pete. “Obesity in Pets: What You Need to Know.” Pete The Vet. (accessed May 1, 2020)

“The Healthy Dog Weight and Body Condition.” Purina. (accessed May 1, 2020)

“Body Condition Scoring.” The Healthy Pet Club. (accessed May 1, 2020)

“Dob Obesity.” The Kennel Club. (accessed May 1, 2020)

Special thanks to Denise O’Moore, Mighty Dog Graphics,  for the graphics and BCS poster: “Mr. Darcy Says Mind my Waist”


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