The Skinny on Dog Obesity: Part 3


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If you’re just joining us in this post, check out Part 1 and Part 2 before proceeding! This post will get a little bit in the weeds and I’ll wrap up with my final thoughts about obesity.

Lack of Owner Education

It is my opinion that veterinarians, canine fitness professionals, and the pet industry in general do a very poor job at educating pet owners about this topic. This is often because we do not want to offend or upset owners. Most owners have no idea how many calories are in their dog’s food or treats. To be honest, prior to writing this blog, I did not know how many calories were in my dogs’ food either. In the training and certification process to become a CPCFT, I did the exercise that is written out below for my older dogs. However, they were eating different food at the time. When we don’t know how many calories we are feeding our dogs, it is super easy to overfeed. Also, dog food bags are notoriously bad with their feeding guidelines listed on the bag because they assume all dogs are active. The amount of food fed is highly dependent on each individual dog too.

My dogs get fed Purina Pro Plan Sport Formula. In my research for this post I pulled up Purina’s website to get better numbers for the example I’m about to share. Under the feeding guide it reads:

We recommend that you keep your dog in ideal body condition and not allow your dog to become overweight. The exact amount of food your dog requires will need to be adjusted according to age, activity and environment. But a good place to start is with these guidelines for an average, active, adult dog fed once daily.

These guidelines are also typically based on “a cup” as being 8 ounces. There are many times I have heard of people using one of those oversized 22 ounce cups they got at the ball park a few years ago, as 1 cup of food. This would actually be 2.75 cups of food.

Calorie Consumption Calculation Example

I’m going to use my puppy for this example. She is currently an 8 month old Staffordshire Bull Terrier. When she went to the veterinarian about a month ago, she weighed 28 lbs. Because of Facebook, I am able to keep in contact with her breeders and littermates’ owners. As these puppies have been growing up a number of the other owners were curious on how much food to feed and how much the puppies weigh. They get a little annoyed when I have no idea how much Kiely weighs and I can never give them a good answer on how much she eats since it varies so much. I have never been concerned about Kiely’s weight or if I was over feeding. The reason is because I was paying very close attention to Kiely’s Body Condition Score (I’ll get more in detail with this shortly) rather than actual numbers. If she looks skinny, I feed a little more for a few days. If she’s looking a little pudgy, I feed slightly less for a few days.

According to Purina’s website, Kiely should eat 1.33 – 2 Cups of food per day. According to the website, this translates to 630-950 kcal per day (that means everything the dog consumes, including food, treats, chews, etc.). That’s A HUGE window of calories!!! Also, most owners do not take into consideration treats and extras their dogs get throughout the day. Of course this is just a recommendation, so feeding something within that guideline should get me close to what is appropriate for her, right? Here is approximately what Kiely eats each day, however, she might get some more extras (an extra chewie, or meal) if she has a more active day:

  • 2 Cups of Dry Kibble – 950 calories
  • 1 Egg – 78 calories
  • 1 Busy Bone – 336 calories or 1 DentaStix – 53 calories
  • Training Treats – 150 calories (estimate)

On a typical day, Kiely is given 1,231-1,514 kcal per day. This is 281-564 kcal MORE than what is recommended for her weight listed on her bag of dog food. Since my dog is getting 300-550 more calories than is recommended you would probably assume that Kiely is overweight. My dogs lead a very active lifestyle, so she is actually, on some days, a little underweight! Check out your dog’s food. How many calories are in a cup? What are the feeding recommendations on the bag?

Body Condition Score

As I mentioned before, there is something called a Body Condition Score (BCS). This score is based upon what the dog looks and feels like from the side (lateral view) and from above (dorsal view). In my opinion, this one tool is the easiest way to determine if a dog is underweight, ideal weight, overweight, or obese. These charts typically all use an outline of a dog, so maybe it would be more useful to show actual dogs. I really like the American Animal Hospital Association’s BCS Chart. It is easy to understand, easy to read, and uses both the 5 point and 9 point scale. Where does your dog fall on the BCS? What do you think about these dogs?

Balta – Before Fitness Plan

Bela – After Photo, at the end of her Fitness Plan. She decreased body fat and gained muscle and body awareness.


Journey – After Photo. He is quite the athlete and developed quite a bit of muscle during his Fitness Plan.

Armada without doing any fitness for a few months.


Wrapping Up

Obesity is bad! It shortens dogs’ lifespan, lowers their quality of life, and bestows unnecessary expenses. American culture LOVES dogs. There are some people who love their dogs more than they like people. For a culture that loves our dogs so much, we sure are doing them a great disservice by making their lives more painful and shorter due to that love. With some simple changes in mentality, additional training, and/or management most cases of obesity can be prevented or reversed.

If you have an obese or overweight dog that does not have any additional metabolic diseases and you want to make a change in his or her life, check out my Canine Fitness services! Just like with people, weight management is very individual. What might be safe for one dog, may not be safe or appropriate for another dog. It is important to get help from a canine fitness professional or veterinarian to ensure your dog does not get hurt. Proper weight management plans should encourage muscle growth and decrease body fat. It will take consistent work, but in the long run your dog will have a much happier and potentially longer life.

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