Karen B. London
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Weight Reduction in Dogs
Recognizing the problem is the first step

The dog’s left legs were aimed a little bit skyward as he was lying on his right side. Excessive weight prevented them from being in the usual position—resting on the body with the feet on the ground. His guardian said that their veterinarian wants them to work on shedding some of that weight for health reasons, but that he thinks the dog’s size is just fine.

The problem of overweight dogs is certainly not new, but the trend towards lack of concern about dogs who are way too heavy continues to grow. Lately, many of the people I meet whose dogs seem far heavier than they need to be don’t seem to think that their dogs are overweight and need to lose weight. As a society, we seem to have become accustomed to dogs with a rounder shape, and overweight dogs no longer stand out because there are so many of them. Dogs at healthy weights may even look too skinny to people who are used to heftier dogs.

Recently, one woman proudly introduced me to her dogs, both of whom were significantly bigger than dogs who are at their perfect weight. As I began to pet them, she said to me, “Can you believe my vet thinks they are overweight?” Both of these dogs could probably have lost a quarter of their weight and still not been svelte, so yes, I could believe it.

It’s common for people to be advised to put their dogs on a weight reduction program, but many people decline to participate. Some of that may be because of the effort it takes to help out pets lose weight. The careful consideration of food type and amount as well as the attention to extra exercise make weight loss a big project. Another reason may be that people are just not convinced that their dogs needs to be any lighter.

Does your veterinarian’s view of your dog’s weight match with your own view of it?


Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

Photo by Jacek.NL/Flickr

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Submitted by nicole | March 4 2014 |

Yes, my vet and I are on the same page about my the weight of my dogs. One of my dogs is an american bulldog/lab/english bulldog cross. She's all muscle- a lean, not so mean, canicross machine :) I have been accused more than once of underfeeding her. My vet tells me to have people call her if they think I'm underfeeding this dog and she'll set them straight! At our last vet visit a few weeks ago my vet said she wanted to take a picture of Cassidy so that she could show other clients what a dog at a perfect weight and fitness level looks like because so many of them have overweight dogs and refuse to acknowledge it.

Submitted by Frances | March 5 2014 |

I have toy dogs, and watch their weight carefully - my vet is actually more forgiving of a little plumpness than I am, but then his two labradors could do to lose a few pounds...! My own weight, on the other hand, is something best not talked about - I definitely need longer walks!

Submitted by Fatdogowner | July 28 2014 |

I wish people would speak up more about overweight dogs. It seems like when my dog was obese no-one said a word, now that she's normal I get comments on how skinny she is. Now, people knew she was obese when I asked them, but no-one made those kind of remarks on it because it's considered to be 'rude'. So people with fat dogs get ever more distorted ideas about what's 'normal' and what's 'skinny'.

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