Obesity is becoming a huge problem for dogs in the UK, with pet obesity rates continuing to rise across the country. If you've made a vow to get your own pooch in better shape in the new year, keep reading for some top tips.

Why is this important?

Quite simply, exercise and healthy eating are both crucial to ensuring your pet is healthy and happy - but we at Barking Heads believe that many pet owners may not be not aware their dog is overweight.

Don’t take it from us, though; listen to the stats:

  • Approximately 50% of all dogs - equating to four million portly pooches - are overweight
  • Fat dogs are expected to outstrip healthy ones within five years
  • An increase in levels of pet obesity has been reported by 80% of veterinary professionals in the last two years, with more and more dogs being brought into the vets for treatment on arthritis, diabetes and heart conditions (Worrying stuff!).

Therefore, we recruited Simon Hayes, clinical director and partner at Village Vet practices, to offer his top tips for recognising the signs and keeping your dog healthy...

Five clues that your dog is overweight:

Is your dog’s collar tighter than it used to be?

Simon says: “Fat deposits around a dog’s neck is a strong indication that she is overweight. When you first put a collar on your dog, use the “two-finger” rule: Once the dog's collar is fastened, you should be able to easily slide two fingers under the collar. “When you slide the width of your two fingers between the collar and neck, the collar should feel snug, but not tight. Monitor this over a few months to make sure it’s not getting tighter.”

yellow labrador outside

Can you feel your dog’s ribs?

Simon says: “You should be able to quite easily feel the ribs but running your hand over the torso. There should be a slight amount of fat over them, but each rib should be distinct.

“If you can see the ribs poking out, she is too thin. If you cannot feel them at all, the pet is very overweight.”

Can your dog still run around without getting out of breath, or does your dog pant even when it’s not hot?

Simon says: “Panting is normal in otherwise healthy dogs who pant to regulate their body temperature.

“A dog who pants excessively after a run (with no other symptoms of being unwell) is likely to be overweight.”

happy dog smiling at the camera

When you look from above can you see your dog’s waist or do they look like a coffee table?

Simon says: “Your dog should have a definite waist behind the ribs. If there is no waist, or worse yet, the area between the ribs and hips is wider than the hips or ribs, your dog is grossly overweight.”

Problems grooming?

“Have you noticed that your dog can’t groom everywhere?

“Maybe they can’t get round to their rear end? This is another hint that they are overweight.”

Five tips to get your dog fit and healthy:

1. Take them for a swim!

dog swimming in a pool with balls

“Swimming is an excellent form of fitness.

“Look for your local hydrotherapy centre or if you are brave, encourage a dip in your local pond (definitely the more messy option), but most dogs love a cooling swim, especially in the summer months.”

2. There’s an app for that:

Think about getting a fitness tracker for your dog. Using the same technology as in popular fitness monitors for humans, pet fitness trackers allow you to monitor your dog’s activity to help encourage you to exercise her regularly and track her progress. These are easy to use. Just clip onto your dog’s collar and use the relevant smartphone app.

3. Visit the vets:

dog at the vets

“Make sure you get a health check at your vet at least once a year.

“Regular trips to the vet means that you can identify hidden health issue in your canine friend early, including weight problems, which can lead to more serious issues.”

4. Measure!!!

yellow labrador in the garden

“Don’t guess how much food your dog should be eating. Work out how much a dog of their size should be eating, measure it accurately - and make sure you account for treats! Also, look at healthier, low fat treat alternatives!
“Healthy, light yet complete balanced dog food, such as Fat Dog Slim by Barking Heads contains 30% chicken and trout that helps your dog to not only lose weight but to maintain their correct weight.

“They even put a small hole in the middle of the kibble so the dogs think they are getting more than they actually are!”

5. IMPORTANT - Exercise your dog:

“This is the most important point of all. Most dogs need at least 30 mins of vigorous exercise a day; just opening the back door on a cold day is not enough!

“Make sure you’re designating enough time every day to give your pooch a pootle for a minimum of half an hour.”


Should I feed my dog treats? Our Vet Dr Scott Miller gives his top tips on healthy treating! Click here to read more.


*The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified pet health provider with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s health*