Weight management: Is my dog overweight?

If you’re unsure if your dog is overweight then you’re not alone. Many owners find it difficult to spot when their dog is overweight and some are unable to tell what a “healthy size” should look like - but why is this? Seeing your dog every day can make it incredibly tricky to notice slow weight gain and subtle changes to their body shape. Also, obesity currently affects between 30-60% of dogs, and this rising trend means that it is now increasingly common for us to see overweight dogs out and about. This “new normal” can trick us into thinking that the natural body shape of a dog is larger than it actually is.

Is it dangerous for my dog to be overweight?

Overweight dogs are more likely to have a shorter lifespan and can suffer from the same sorts of health problems that overweight humans do, such as heart disease and diabetes. Being overweight can also put a strain on your dog’s back and joints, leading to pain and even arthritis.

What are the signs that my dog may be overweight?

If your dog shows any of the signs below it could be an indication that they are overweight.

  • Are you unable to see a clear waist? If you look from above and the side, their body should go in between their ribs and hips
  • Is it difficult to feel their ribs if you run your hands along their side?
  • Is their face larger and rounder than it should be?
  • Is their neck thick and fatty?
  • Are they reluctant to exercise?
  • Do they find it hard to go for walks?
  • Do they get out of breath more easily?
  • Are they often tired or sleep a lot?

If the answer to any of these questions was “yes”, then it may be time to find out more about whether your dog is overweight.

How can I tell if my dog is overweight?

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes. It’s very difficult to work out a perfect weight for every type of dog, so putting them on the scales isn’t always the best way to see if they are overweight. A better way is to check their shape, or the contours of their profile. A dog’s ideal weight will differ between breed types, but a healthy shape will be similar for most kinds of dog. A good way to help you assess their body shape is to use body condition scores.

What is body condition scoring?

Body condition scoring is a useful tool that helps you understand more about the shape and size of your dog.  This resource enables you to compare your dog to images of other dogs and place them on a scale that ranges from underweight to overweight. Regardless of your dog's age, size or breed type, these scoring systems can be used to help you see if your dog has any issues with their weight, and to what degree. Below you can find links to a number of different body condition scoring systems.

How can I help my dog lose weight?

If your dog is overweight, then helping to reduce their size can significantly improve their health and happiness. You’ll need to help your dog balance the food they eat with the exercise they do, and the best place to start is with advice from your vet. Your vet can help you create a plan of action and give you information on the best and healthiest ways to help your dog lose weight.

Where can I find out more about losing weight?

To read our hints and tips on how to help your dog stay fit and healthy, why not read our article on managing your dog’s weight.

Think your dog may be affected?

If you're worried about your dog's health, always contact your vet immediately!

We're not a veterinary organisation and so we can't give veterinary advice, but if you're worried about any of the issues raised in this article, please contact your local vet practice for further information.

Find a vet near you

If you're looking for a vet practice near you, why not visit the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' Find a vet page.