Is My Dog Overweight? Use This Tool to Find Out

On a high level, the chain of reasoning supporting the claim “your dog should lose some body fat” looks something like this: (1) canine overweight and obesity are “bad” for dogs (they shorten lives and amplify suffering); (2) your dog is overweight or obese; therefore (3) your dog should lose some body fat.

Most dog owners won’t quibble with the contention that overweight and obesity are vile, life-shortening conditions. (Yes, “overweight” is a proper way to say “the state of being overweight.” If you’ve got another concise, politically-correct way to say it, I’m all ears.)  We’re usually pretty willing to admit that overweight and obesity are conditions to be avoided (that they’re “bad”), even if we disagree with or don’t fully understand the science supporting that conclusion.

In my experience, where dog owners do tend to push back is when someone tries to tell us that our dogs are overweight or obese.  Picking random overweight dogs out of a line-up isn’t very difficult.  Admitting that your dog is overweight is another story altogether.

Why is that? Well, it’s pretty simple, really.  Being told that your dog is fat is a form of criticism and people don’t really like to be criticized.  Labels like “obese” and “overweight” carry implicit judgments, judgments about not just our pets but about us as pet owners.   And our fragile egos don’t like that.  It “feels bad” on an emotional level.  So we try to explain it away (not just to our interlocutor but also to ourselves) by building crappy little arguments that, at least on their face, say otherwise:

“Oh, no, he’s the right size for his breed.  He has some Saint Bernard in him, I think.”

“He runs around at the park every day, how could he possibly be overweight?”

“His daddy lived to be thirteen and he was way fatter than this.”

Our tendency to misclassify our overweight dogs as normal weight — Dr. Ernie Ward of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention calls this phenomenon the “fat gap” — is a significant hurdle in the quest to eradicate pet obesity. If we want to do something about pet obesity, we’ve got to get past it.

So here’s how we do that:



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