Originally published on ArlNow.com 

More than half of the dogs in the U.S. are overweight. Much like with people, it is a result of too much processed food, large portion sizes, and just plain overeating.

What amazes me the most about this epidemic is the number of dog owners who simply do not know that their dog is overweight. Check out this awesome chart at projectpetslimdown.com. Once you know your dogs body condition score (BCS) you can make adjustments to their feeding.

The easiest way to tell if your dog is overweight is to feel for their ribs. I recommend placing your thumbs on your dogs back bone and using your fingers to feel for the ribs. You should be able to feel your dogs ribs through no more than about a 1/4 inch of skin, muscle and fat. If you cannot easily feel your dogs ribs, without having to push down, then your dog is likely overweight.

If you do find that your dog is overweight, simply cut down on the amount of food they get per day and increase their exercise. Sound familiar? A great way to supplement your dog’s meal is with green beans. Frozen or canned green beans help your dog feel full without adding too many calories.

Here are some common reasons our dogs end up overweight:

“But my vet says he’s fine” — If I hear this one more time… Please ask your vet for an honest opinion about your dog’s weight. I do not know why veterinarians are so afraid of talking about a dogs weight. I suspect it’s because it can be a touchy subject and they are afraid of losing your business. But in the interest of the health of our dogs (and cats), I implore vets to be more forthcoming and honest about talking about weight issues.

“The bags says to feed 4 cups a day” — I hate dog food bag instructions. The idea that every dog in a certain weight range should eat the same amount of food per day is ludicrous. A 12-year-old dog that weights 35 pounds should be eating nowhere near the same amount as a 35-pound dog who is 2 years old and hikes three times a week. In addition, keep in the mind that the goal of the company is to sell you more food. The faster you feed, the faster you buy another bag. The only measure of how much a dog should eat a day is their body condition. Just like people.

“She’s still just a puppy” — Where puppyhood ends can be debated, but the truth is that most dogs have reached 75 percent of their growth potential by the time they are 6 months old. The exception, of course, is large breeds (German shepherd size and larger), who may take up to 12 months to reach full size. That means that your dog’s growth will start to slow somewhere about 5 months of age. Most puppies start to pack on the pounds around 7 to 8 months of age because they are still being fed the same amount that they were eating when they were 5 months old.

“He’s not fat, it’s just his hair” — Yes, fluffy dogs can hide behind their fur more easily, but please don’t use it as an excuse. By palpating your dogs ribs you can just as easily asses the condition of a heavy-coated dog.

Bottom line, help your dog feel better and live longer by keeping them in shape. They’ll love you for it!