Every pet parent wants their dog to be happy and healthy. But sometimes what makes our pups happy, isn’t the best thing for their health.

A few too many treats (for being such a good boy!) or a too-heaping helping of food at mealtimes (she’s hungry!) can quickly have your pet packing on the pounds. If your dog is overweight, you’re not alone. One survey found that ~ 56% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. Worse yet, many pet parents aren’t aware that their pets are overweight.

That’s bad news for our pups since extra weight can impact not only on their health and quality of life, it can also mean a shorter lifespan.

Being overweight or obese can lead to joint problems and arthritis, liver and kidney diseases, diabetes, respiratory and cardiovascular problems, and other issues. One study even found that simply limiting a dog’s food intake can actually prolong his life by as much as 15%, or two whole years.

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Is your dog overweight?

Use the Body Condition Score

body condition score for dogs

People who try to keep track of their weight will be familiar with the Body Mass Index (BMI) as a way to measure weight. For furry friends, we have a Body Condition Score (BCS) as a way of evaluating body fat. There are two scales that pet parents can choose from when determining their pets’ BCS. There is a scale of 1-5 which is a simplified scale with 1 describing a very thin dog and 5 describing an obese dog.

 

To try and determine your pup’s BCS at home, it’s necessary to both look at and feel your dog. 

 

If you suspect your dog needs to lose a few, here’s how to tell.

  1. Look at your pet from above. Does he have a defined waist or is he more oval-shaped? If he’s more oval, and looks like a coffee table, then yeah, it’s time for a diet.
  2. Can you feel her ribs? They should be visible but not too prominent or protruding. If she’s overweight, you might not be able to feel them under a thick layer of fat.
  3. Look at your dog from the side. Does his abdomen slightly tuck up? If he’s overweight, he’ll lack an abdominal tuck or have a belly that hangs down.

After you’ve examined your dog, use the following chart to determine their BCS.

Score

Description

1/5 or 1/9

Ribs, pelvic bones, and backbones are prominently seen and will stick out. Noticeable loss of muscle mass. Severely pronounced waistline.

1.5/5 or 2/9

Ribs, pelvic bones, and backbones prominently seen but with less noticeable loss of muscle mass. The waistline is pronounced.

2.5/5 or 4/9

Ribs, pelvic bones, backbones easily felt but not visually pronounced. Noticeable waistline.

3/5 or 5/9

Ribs, pelvic bones, backbones easily felt but with a layer of fat over. Waistline is noticeable but not obvious. More curves can be seen.

3.5/5 or 6/9

More layers of fat making it harder to feel ribs, pelvic bones, and backbones. Waistline is visible but not prominent. 

4/5 or 7/9

Some pressure is needed to feel bones through more layers of fat. Waistline no longer apparent.

4.5/5 or 8/9

Extreme pressure is needed to feel bones through layers of fat. No waistline visible.

5/5 or 9/9

Completely unable to feel bones through layers of fat. Protruding waistline observable. 

 

Before you put your overweight dog on a diet, it’s best to speak to your vet. Usually, the problem is simply that he’s consuming too much food (just like us!), but there are certain medical conditions that can cause weight gain.

If you’ve confirmed your dog is otherwise healthy, try these 7 tips to help them safely slim down.

 

7 Tips to Help Your Dog Lose Weight

1. Determine your dog’s caloric needs

Factors like breed, activity level, age, and whether your pet is spayed or neutered can all affect your pet’s calorie requirements. When you take our quiz, Puppo will calculate a personalized feeding for your dog based on the information you give us. But monitor your dog’s body condition and if your dog needs a little more or less, let us know and we can change it.  It’s a good idea to recalculate periodically since caloric needs change over time.

2. Track what your dog is eating

Read the label on your dog’s food — there’s no one size fits all when it comes to dog food. Different brands and flavors will have different recommended serving sizes. At Puppo, we make this easy by calculating your dog’s needs and printing it on the bag.

Check out the scoop or cup you use to measure your pet’s food. Most feeding guides are based on using an 8 oz measuring cup not a Big Gulp cup! Measure how much food you normally feed and check how much the scoop or cup you use actually holds. You might be surprised at how much a real cup” of food actually is! Puppo provides an 8 oz scoop with your initial order so we can help you to feed the right amount for your dog.

Resist feeding your dog table scraps — Those puppy eyes tho! -  in addition to teaching the bad habit of begging, many human foods are not healthy for dogs, and too much can lead to weight gain.

3. Cut back on treats

Log how many treats they’re getting and make note of the calories. Experts recommend that treats shouldn’t make up more than 10% of your dog’s daily calories. Don’t overlook edible chews like pig ears, bully sticks, or rawhides. These can each add 80-200 calories to your dog’s day.

The Puppo plan helps you keep your dog on track by calculating their recommended treating calories per day, letting you know exactly how calories can come from treats you give to your furry friend. 

4. Reduce gradually

If you determine that your dog needs to lose weight, don’t suddenly cut their calories drastically. And before beginning any weight loss program, visit your veterinarian and make sure your pet is otherwise healthy.  Then choose a weight loss diet, with lower calories and higher fiber, and follow the feeding guides and any vet advice for a healthy weight loss.  

Most weight loss plans, like the one provided by Puppo, breaks down this process into distinct phases, with healthy weight loss being around 3% per month. We can help you track your dog’s weight and safely lower their calories over time as you move from one phase to the next towards a healthy weight. 

5. Stick to a meal schedule

If your dog is currently self-feeding, it’s time to pick up the bowl. While some dogs can self-regulate their food intake, most who have access to unlimited food will overeat. Some experts recommend feeding adult dogs twice per day, morning and evening but do what works best with your dog. And feed at the same time every day. Pets do best on a schedule and it will help you with planning as well.

6. Get moving

Ensuring that your dog gets enough exercise is important both for their weight and overall health. Add an extra walk to your day, head for the dog park, go for a jog together, or play a longer game of fetch. As a bonus, more exercise can mean a calmer and better-behaved dog. Win-win!

How Puppo Helps

At Puppo, we’ve made it easy to give your dog the nutrition they need, with a meat-first food that’s free of wheat, corn, soy protein, and artificial preservatives. Each meal is tailored to your dog’s individual nutritional needs including their age, size, activity level, and food sensitivities - and how much they need each feeding is printed right on their custom bag!

With recurring shipments delivered straight to your door, it’s even simpler than picking up that bag of kibble, or dealing with expensive frozen meals.

We also have a dedicated team available to answer your questions and support you along the way, so you have the tools to help your dog thrive!

Learn more about the weight loss nutrition plans at Puppo here, or take the quiz to receive personalized recommendations for your pup today. 

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