Let’s Get Real: Is Your Dog Fat?

That’s not “more to love” or a “cute chubby little but”. That’s fat and it is unhealthy for your dog. With it your dog might not live as long or might get sick and not be able to live a life of adventure. Pet obesity is on the rise and it is a real problem.

I get questions all the time about how I keep my dogs so trim.

Here is a handy chart to asses your dog’s body condition from the Association of Pet Obesity and Prevention.

If your dog is a 3 it could probably stand some lose some weight. If it’s a 4 then it definitely needs to loose weight.

Pet Obesity is a big concern for me. At 5 am this morning I had a genius idea. I wanted to start a blog about dog obesity and call it “fatdog” or “fatdoghelp”. After a couple of minutes on GoDaddy and Google I found out that someone was already doing it. Thank goodness because I don’t need more stuff to do! I can barely find the time for everything currently going on in my life.

So I am not a genius but I AM really glad that this website is out there. It’s simple but well done, easy to navigate and helpful. I would like to shake the hand of whoever is writing this. Go over and check out fat dog help (Update: unfortunately, it looks like this site no longer exists) for yourself.

I also found this really great post written from a dog’s view on pet obesity called Obesity in Dogs. Fix It! If you are wondering if your dog is fat or what to do about it I highly suggest checking that one out too. Again, it is simple and gets straight to the point.

Photo courtesy of Virtua Vet


  1. says

    This is a touchy subject. What do you say to a friend when you know their “baby” is just too darn fat without totally offending them? And what is they do know but choose not to make any lifestyle changes that would help? Good friends recently lost a dog to heart disease. The dog was extremely obese, the owner knew it but did nothing about it. My heart hurt for their loss but in the back of my mind was that nagging “you could have done something”. Of course I can never say anything, but darn it i wish they’d made some changes before it was too late.
    Gizmo ( recently posted…THANKFUL THURSDAY -PATIENCE OF A DOGMy Profile

    • AdventureJess says

      I am really sorry for your friend. It is always hard to lose a pet no matter what may have influenced it.

      Yeah, it is tough. Through our Adventureweiner Club, I see a few that are grossly overweight. I try to reach people indirectly through education or example but resist saying anything to the owner directly. However, I have had a couple of people as my opinion and I tactfully tell them what I really think (that yes, your dog is overweight). People just need to understand that having an obese pet means that they will be will you for a shorter time.

  2. says

    I wish that more people understood the importance of keeping their dog at a healthy weight! When we see dogs that are at their ideal weight their owners think they are too skinny, it’s so sad!

    Love the diagram. I thought Sherman was losing weight so I increased his food a little, then I took him into work and he had gained 4 pounds! I was so bummed! Needless to say I adjusted his food again!
    Jen recently posted…Can I Trust Santa Claus With My Dogs?My Profile

    • AdventureJess says

      I feel like it is all about education. I know about pet obesity being a problem but forget that some others either don’t or don’t realize the gravity of the situation. Since our blog is about the heath and fitness of small dogs, and I see more overweight small dogs than I do big, perhaps it is a subject I should talk more about on our blog.

  3. says

    I finally bought senior less-active food for my 5 older mini dachshunds. Of course they hate it. That’s the point. If I give them Chef Michael’s Chicken they eat the chicken bits, leave the peas and carrots, and gain a pound a day. Since they hate this new food they eat less and so they’re on a diet as well as getting only what they need as seniors. No worries: after a few days, that stuff will start to look really good to them. Oh, except for Franny. She’ll still get the special Franny Food because she really won’t eat anything else, she’d rather dry up and blow away. Spoiled..rotten. (See The Tao of Franny blog post)
    Ann Sowards recently posted…A Wienerholic Family Christmas Road TripMy Profile

    • AdventureJess says

      Ha! I try to use that method for me too…try to keep food on hand that I am not very excited about. When I am truly hungry I will eat it but I won’t “go to the food” when I am simply bored :)

  4. says

    It really is a lot more difficult to determine than these charts make it seem. I know it looks simple but when your vision and senses are obscured by love or denial or just being accustomed to seeing your dog look a certain way. It can be hard to gauge. So many people have told me my dog is too thin, including people who know more than most about what neglect looks like.

    From the chart she is definitely a 2 but is also kind of a 1 because her ribs and spine are visible. There is nothing wrong with her muscle mass and I don’t think she looks emaciated but others have told me she does. This dog eats a ton of food! At the max of what is recommended for her weight. The vet says she is perfectly fine but charts like these make me question that. Nothing is easy, is it?
    Kristine recently posted…Basement Agility at its FinestMy Profile

    • AdventureJess says

      Yes…It can be difficult as fur and denial can get in the way. I do think that people can get a good idea by checking their dog themselves against this chart.

      As with anything though, there are always exceptions. Each dog is different, like people, and have different healthy set-weights. According to this chart, a dog may appear slightly over or under weight but still be healthy in actuality. That is why it is always good to follow up with your vet. Chester is definitely on the thinner side as you can see most of his ribs but the vet said he is at a healthy weight.

    • AdventureJess says

      I have heard that people with dogs in agility prefer them to be on the thinner side. It’s like any athlete – there is an ideal strength to weight ratio for maximum performance I suppose.

  5. cyndiann says

    What a lot of people don’t realize is that commercial dog food is a huge factor in making dogs fat. Dogs are not supposed to eat carbohydrates and that is all dry kibble is. Dry food is a major factor in causing diabetes, kidney problems and lots more. Just a switch to a more species appropriate diet can vastly improve a dog’s health. Feeding a “diet” kibble is not appropriate nor is restricting calories a great majority of the time. I don’t know what they were thinking when they made kibble. It’s certainly not something a dog should be eating.

    • AdventureJess says

      Yes…to much carbs OR fat/protein can cause pet obesity. Many people who feed their dog regular kibble with lots of carbs might switch to a grain free kibble (which is a step in the right direction) and keep feeding the same amount – causing their dog to become even more overweight because they don’t realize that the portions will likely need to be reduced.

      In my experience, there is the same danger with raw food too. Sometimes if one switches from kibble to raw (which can be more calorie dense), the amount of food given to your dog needs to be reduced.

      • cyndiann says

        Actually I free feed and they get as much fat as they want and nobody is fat. Carbs are not required by dogs at all while fat and protein are. You don’t have to reduce the amount of food if carbs are cut totally out. And there is no danger with raw since it weighs much more than dry food. It naturally takes less to fill a dog. Of course, sometimes when switching a dog from kibble to real meat a dog will gorge themselves and overeat just because they can’t believe their great luck but as time goes on and they realize the great food is there to stay they chill out.

  6. says

    I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen dogs and thought they were overweight. When I ask what does your vet say about the dog’s weight, the answer is usually: “his/her weight is fine”. Our dogs generally need more weight, but we have no problem cutting them back when they start to gain weight.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…This ‘N That ThursdayMy Profile

  7. says

    Heavens no! Mom is always being complimented on the great shape my sis and I are in – the way it should be. We are mom’s fitness buds so we 3 stay fit together. We have once cat on the chubby side which makes mom nuts but he has been that way forever.
    Emma recently posted…Visiting Santa | GBGVMy Profile

  8. Tiffany says

    Keeping a dog fit is no mystery. Like people, it’s simply a matter of feeding them a high quality diet, not that commercial trash, and plenty of exercise. While part of me gets angry and disgusted with people who allow their dogs to become fat and call it “cute”, I realize some people just need education on proper dog care. Then there’s well meaning owners who just need to find a good balance between diet and exercise. There was once a time where my Pickles was fat. We exercised, he ate wet food, and my God did he get plenty of treats! It was a bit excessive, though. The fat seemed to just creep up on him. I woke up one morning to realize my cute little hot dog now looked like a ballpark frank! I also noticed a slight dip in his energy, and his bowel movements left something to be desired. I knew something had to be done. I cut back on his treats, switched to a dry food, and had to exercise double hard to lose the fat. And at the time, it was a struggle to get in extra exercise in with my busy schedule. Things would have been a whole lot easier if I just took the extra precautions. It was well worth it to make the change, though. Pickles is now at a healthy weight again, and the multiple comments on his appearance proves that. Not only is he in the best shape of his life, but I too have noticed improvements in my life. His exercise needs forces me to get off the couch and get a workout, and as most people know, exercise releases endorphins which makes you happy. I can’t wait for this summer. The pet’s are gonna have a hot mom. And with recently adopting Penny, all the more reason to go for a jog. Seriously, she won’t let me be lazy. She’ll yell at me by the door until I do. Is there any better motivator than a dog? Lol. Anybody like win turducken? It’s what you get when you treat your dogs right. A great post to remind pet owners the benefits of a fit dog. Btw, I’m new to this blog. I discovered it, oh, maybe a half hour ago and I’m already in love. Lol. Keep up the great work!

    • AdventureJess says

      What an inspiring story. Thanks for sharing! Sometimes we don’t realize the fat is creeping up until one day we look in the mirror, or at our dog, and it is obvious. It would be great if that point was never reached. As you pointed out, it can take so much more work to reverse it than it would have to stay on top of it in the first place. I know with Chester, he can fluctuate by a pound do to this creep. One day I notice he is getting a little chubby (but know it has been building for a while) so I cut down his food and increase the exercise. Then comes some times when I look at him and say “my gosh he has gotten so skinny” so I up his food a little. It’s always a give and take balance around our house. The important thing is being able to recognize when something needs to be done and being willing to take action.

      Thanks for reading our blog and taking the time to comment. We are glad you like it!
      AdventureJess recently posted…WW #56: You Snuggle Wif Me?My Profile

  9. says

    I’m with Kristine: the chart is fine as a rough guide, but it quite frankly does not work for many breeds, particularly the sighthounds. By the time a greyhound is a No. 3, he’s fat.

    Mine are difficult. Jeffie is super skinny, even for a greyhound, and it’s hard to keep weight on him. He’s a No. 1, for sure, but the vet (who does the greyhound track work in our town so is as near to a greyhound expert as you can hope for in a vet) says he looks fighting fit and perfectly healthy. In fact, when I asked him if he thought Jeffie was too skinny, he snorted and said no, he looks as if he’s just come off the track and could happily go back, in other words, in good, athletic shape. While he has bony protuberances visible at a distance, he does also have great, fat, solid muscles. No body fat to speak of, but muscle he certainly has.

    Sid, on the other hand is a tripod and a pig when it comes to food. If I didn’t watch him he would become fat, for sure, and a fat greyhound is a horrible, horrible sight! He doesn’t fit ANY of the descriptions between 1 and 3. I can see his bony protuberances at a distance, yet he does have a little visible fat. He has excellent muscles (his professional masseuse calls them ‘ridiculously big’). I can feel all his ribs, and yet if I don’t watch him extremely carefully, he begins to lose his tuck and quite clearly has a fat belly. Luckily, I know what to look for in a greyhound, but if anyone were to go by your chart, he’d be very definitely FAT. The last three greyhound ribs are supposed to be visible.
    Jay from The Depp Effect recently posted…Macro Monday – August 26thMy Profile

    • Jessica Rhae says

      I agree that this chart is not a one-size fit all. It does to a pretty good job for most breeds. However, I really see it as useful because it increases awareness about the weight of one’s pet. The point of the chart to me is to see where our dog falls and ask your vet questions if you have them – if they don’t seem to fit in any of these categories.

      Chester is more like a 2. I think he is too think but my vet gives me the “you crazy” look every time I say he needs to gain a half a pound or so :)

  10. Biscuitbum says

    We lost our last Lab, Biscuit, in April last year with a tumour on the heart. She was overweight, and twice on a diet, so we blame ourselves for not persevering. Our current Lab, Polly, is 17 months and definately a 3, and we intend to keep her that way.

    • Jessica Rhae says

      I am so sorry to hear about your loss. We can’t beat ourselves up because we can never be 100% sure that it was the weight that cased such a problem. However, I do believe that keeping your dog at a healthy weight can help influence the development if diseases. Good for you for keeping track of the body condition of your new doggie. May you have many happy years together!
      Jessica Rhae recently posted…The October K9 Kamp is Now in Session!My Profile

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