Overweight Dogs and Canine Weight Loss Diets

WebMD helps you create a doggie diet for weight loss and good nutrition.

By Jennifer Dixon
WebMD Pet Health Feature

Reviewed by Katherine Snyder, DVM

For stylist Marissa Gimeno, 32, of Brooklyn, N.Y., it didn't take a rocket scientist -- or even a veterinarian -- for her to realize that her 8-year-old dog, Lolita, needed to slim down. “She was about two pounds overweight,” she says. “For a Chihuahua, that's hard to miss.”

Is Your Dog Overweight?

To tell if your pet could shed a few, feel around his ribs and spine. You should be able to locate both, with only a thin layer of fat separating the skin from the bones. If you can't find the ribcage, you have an overweight dog.

Ask your veterinarian to evaluate your pooch's size at every check-up. Once your canine reaches maturity, ask for his optimal weight. As a rule of thumb, 15% above that weight is obese; zero to 15% is overweight. If your dog falls into either category, he is not alone. Among industrialized nations, 20% of dogs are overweight or obese.

Tips for Weighing Your Dog

Hit the scales periodically (weekly or monthly) to make sure you're on track. “Your vet will be happy to let you use the scale at the office,” says Louise Murray, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM and director of medicine for the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. If that's not convenient, step on a scale at home. Then step on again, this time holding your pet. Subtract the difference for your dog's weight. For small breeds, invest in a baby scale. “Regardless of the method, it's imperative that your pet is weighed on the same scale consistently,” says Todd R. Tams, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM and chief medical officer of VCA Antech.

Overweight Dogs: Blame the Breed

Some breeds are prone to obesity, while others (Greyhounds, German Shepherds, Yorkshire Terriers), are typically slim. Small breeds with a propensity for heftiness include:

  • Cairn Terriers
  • Dachshunds
  • Scottish Terriers
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

Medium breeds:

  • Beagles
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Basset Hounds

Large breeds:

  • Labs
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Rottweilers

Giant breeds:

  • Bernese Mountain Dogs
  • Newfoundlands
  • Saint Bernards