How to tell if your dog is overweight

Your dog’s life expectancy can be cut by two years if they are overweight. Weight problems are common in dogs but just a little excess weight can cause serious health conditions, such as arthritis, diabetes, severe heart disease, liver disease and depression.


Dogs are considered obese when they are as little as 20% overweight. Signs your pet could be overweight include one or more of the following:

  • Ribs cannot easily be felt
  • Loss of an obvious waist
  • Collar needs loosening
  • Difficulty in walking/standing up
  • Slow movement
  • Shortness of breath
  • Bad temper
  • Sleeping more than usual 

What causes dogs to gain weight?

  • Portion sizes – most of us over-feed our dogs. You only need a small portion of dry complete food to provide all the daily nutritional needs for your dog. Always check the back of the food packet and weigh your dog’s food out
  • Too many treats and titbits – treats are often high in fat and sugar, especially leftovers of human food which can contain a lot of sugar and salt. Remember if you’re feeding treats you need to reduce your dog’s daily food allowance a little
  • The wrong diet – some dog foods contain lots of fat and sugar. Avoid dry foods that contain any colourings and additives, a plain brown kibble will be much better for your dog
  • Age – older pets are less active and need fewer calories
  • Neutering – dogs are prone to weight gain after neutering as their metabolism is altered
  • Breed – some breeds including labradors, cocker spaniels and king charles spaniels are more likely to gain weight.

How you can help your dog lose weight

You can help to get your dog back into shape through the right diet and increased exercise. Here are some tips to help:

  • Provide a good food and the correct amount for your dogs’ weight. If you feel the portion of dry food looks too small and that you may prone to over-feeding, you can bulk out each meal with some wet food as this often contains little nutritional goodness
  • Regularly check the portion size as it is easy to gradually increase this without realising
  • Choose a low calorie food rather than reducing food intake dramatically.
  • Divide food allowance into several smaller meals to help satisfy your pet and allow calories to be burned more quickly
  • Reward your dog with food from his food allowance rather than extra treats and scraps
  • Try giving your dog a carrot rather than a fatty chew
  • Increase levels of exercise through play and regular walking.

If your dog is seriously overweight, they may need to be put on a veterinary prescription low calorie food. If in doubt speak to a vet or other animal professional who can advise you on a specific weight reduction plan.