Obesity can have an overall negative effect on a pet's health over their life span. A long term study on Labrador Retrievers showed that life spans were extended by almost two years for dogs who had their feeding restricted. The onset of chronic diseases was also delayed for the restricted feeding group. 1
We believe that the ability to assess your own pet's body condition is a vital tool to any pet owner. It is a simple task to evaluate their body condition to determine if you are over or underfeeding. The easiest and most reliable way is feeling their rib cage. Using the tips of your fingers, glide them back and forth horizontally over the rib cage trying to feel the ribs. What do you feel?
A) I don't feel or see my pet's ribs at all: This is a sign that your pet is significantly overweight which poses long term health risks. We recommend reducing their daily caloric intake by reducing their portions of food, treats, and/or table food.
B) I can feel their ribs deeply but it is not easy: This is a sign that your pet is still over conditioned and need reduction of their daily caloric intake.
C) I can easily feel their ribs and see the outline of each rib: This means that your pet is likely at a very good body condition. Continue your current feeding style.
D) I can feel the rib without effort and also see the outline of each rib: This is a sign of an under conditioned animal that needs their food portions increased. Consult with us soon to make sure there is not an underlying medical problem.
This is meant to be a guide to assessing your pet's body condition only. If you feel that your pet is overweight or underweight then ask us for additional tips to get them to the proper body condition.
Dr. Ryan Beizavi
1. Kealy, RD, Lawler DF, Ballam JM, et al. Effects of diet restrictions on life span and age-related changes in dogs. JAVMA. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2002 May 1;220(9):1315-20