How To Tell If Your Labrador Is Overweight …and what to do about it

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Yellow Labrador Retriever Characteristics

Worried that your Labrador is overweight? Here are the signs that he might need to drop a few pounds, and some easy ways for you to help him lose weight.  

Today’s guest post is by Kate O’Brien from the Slimdoggy website

Labradors are known for their appetites.

As a result of those healthy appetites and their ability to charm humans into feeding them, they also are known for being a little chunky or in reality, overweight.

Labs are sporting dogs and are meant to run, swim, hunt and retrieve all day long. If your Labrador is overweight, you might worry that you are limiting his ability to do these things.

In order to do that they must be healthy, strong and fit, not fat.  Maybe you don’t hunt with your Lab; many if not most Labs are family pets, but that doesn’t mean they should be couch potatoes with an extra layer or two of fat.

 A growing problem

Overweight dogs are a growing problem, pun intended. In the UK it is estimated that over one-third of all dogs are overweight⁠1 and in the US, that figure rises to an astounding 54%.⁠2

Labs are particularly susceptible to obesity and in the US, over 60% are overweight.

Why should we worry? What difference does it make if Buddy has a few extra pounds? Well, if you love Buddy and want him to live a long life, it makes a difference.

Weight and longevity

In the first-ever lifelong canine diet restriction study, a group of Labrador Retrievers was followed for 14 years, from birth until death.

is your labrador overweight?They found that a dog’s median life span can be extended by 15%,  nearly two years for the Labs in the study, by restricting their diet to maintain ideal body condition.⁠3

By keeping your Lab lean and fit you could extend their life for TWO YEARS.

That’s a lot of extra time to spend with your best friend.

A lean dog also has fewer health and joint problems.

Labs have a natural propensity for hip and elbow issues but keeping them fit helps keep arthritis at bay.

Other serious diseases linked to being overweight include cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and some forms of cancer.

Is my dog too fat?

Convinced you want to keep your dog fit, but don’t know how to tell if they are at the proper weight?

You are not alone. In the same survey from PDSA, they report that only 17% of owners look at body shape and weight before deciding how much to feed their pet, and 85% of vets say owners have no idea of healthy body shape for their pet.⁠4

We wanted to offer a few suggestions to help you assess the body condition of your Lab.

  1. The first thing is to have an honest look at them. There are numerous body conformation charts for dogs you can use as a guide. We provide links to several different at the end of this article. Whichever chart you prefer, they all depict a waistline when looking at your dog from above and a slight tuck up behind the ribs.  Take that guide and go look at your dog. Many folks argue that a Lab isn’t supposed to have a ‘tuck’ or a waist, but that standard is for show Labs and let’s be honest, some of those show dogs are overweight.  The reality for most of you is that your dog isn’t a show dog, so having a tuck and being leaner than the ‘show’ dogs you see on TV is better for their health and longevity.
  2. The second evaluation you can perform is whether you feel their ribs when you run your hands lightly over the sides of your dog. Note I said lightly, you shouldn’t have to press in; you should easily feel them. Actually seeing the ribs of your Lab might mean your dog is too thin, so be careful of that as well.
  3.  The scale is the third tool to use in your assessment. Weigh your dog and ask your Vet about their weight. Many vets are reluctant to bring up the subject of your pet being overweight, but if you express your concern, they will most likely give you an honest assessment. Be open to what they say.

 What should he weigh?

The average Lab will weigh somewhere between 60-85 lbs or between 27-30 kgs.

Use this range as a guide but be aware that some Labs with smaller or larger bone structures can be outside of the range and still be perfectly fit and at their optimal weight.

Once you have an idea of whether your Lab is overweight or not, what do you do if they are?

Feeding for health

First and foremost, you have to educate yourself about what you are feeding your dog. Reading the dog food label and following what it says doesn’t work.

Those labels don’t take into account the current condition of your dog, their age or their exercise level, all of which are important factors in how much your dog should eat each day.

And they clearly don’t take into account those extra treats you give your dog!

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Most people don’t properly measure their dog’s food or even know how many calories are in the food they give them each day.

What about exercise?

Do you have any idea how many calories your dog burns each day?  How can you figure out how many calories they need to eat if you don’t know how many they burn?

Too much work you say, just throw a scoop or two (or three) of food in the bowl and be done with it? That’s how you end up with an overweight and unhealthy Lab.

There’s an app for that!

slimdoggyapp1Figuring this out really isn’t as hard as it sounds because, of course there’s an iPhone APP for that.

The SlimDoggy App is a simple App with a Daily Diary that allows you to look up and track all of this information for your dog.

Like a “Runkeeper” and “Weightwatchers” for dogs, the App provides average daily calorie expenditures for a dog as well as calories burned through various types of exercise.

It also has a database of over 2,500 dog foods and treats.

The Diary feature allows you to create a diary for your dog and calculate exactly how much they should be eating based on their daily exercise. The food database helps you pick the healthiest diet and the proper amount of food to feed them each day.

Don’t have an iPhone? No problem, visit the SlimDoggy website and use the Calorie Widget. Soon we will have a full version of the App available on the website too! There are no excuses now.

Let’s have healthy labs!

We all love our Labs and we want them to be in our lives for as long as possible and we want them as healthy as possible. Dogs don’t have opposable thumbs, they can’t feed themselves, and it is our responsibility to feed them a healthy nutritious diet of the proper proportions so that they are lean, fit and healthy.

And then instead of giving them a treat, take them for a walk – that is the best way to show your Lab you love them.

Kate O’Brien and her husband, Steve, live in Camarillo, CA, with their dogs SlimDoggy Jack and Maggie May, senior Lab rescues. They are animal advocates and are active in the dog rescue and foster community. They write about their adventures with their dogs and about pet obesity, health, and fitness on the Slim Doggy websiteFacebook, and Twitter.

Kate has had dogs in her life since she was a child, including the collies her grandfather used to breed and show. Allergies interfered, but then in adulthood Kate was able to bring dogs back into her life. She’s had numerous Labs, a couple of litters of puppies and many Lab fosters. She’s been able to share her love of exercise and fitness with her dogs and they inspire her to help other learn about better health, nutrition & fitness for their dogs.

FURTHER RESOURCES:

FOOTNOTES

1 PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report “The State of Our Pet Nation, 2013

2 Association for Prevention of Pet Obesity Annual Survey Report 2012

3 Effects of diet restriction on life span and age-related changes in dogs, Kealey, Richard et.al., JAVMA Vol 220, No. 990, May 1, 2012

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

4 PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report “The State of Our Pet Nation, 2013

More information on Labradors

labrador-jacket-800You can find out more about how to keep your Labrador as fit and healthy as possible in the Health section of our website.

If you’d like all of The Labrador Site’s best information together in one place, then get your copy of The Labrador Handbook today.

The Labrador Handbook looks at all aspects owning a Labrador, through daily care, to health and training at each stage of their life.

The Labrador Handbook is available worldwide.

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Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of several books on dogs. She is the founder of the Labrador Site and a regular contributor. She is passionate about helping people enjoy their Labradors and lives in Hampshire with her husband and four dogs.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Pippa,

    My golden retriever is 2-3 years old and we have tried different names with her since she was adopted from the SPCA. She ran all the way here from Florida. My concerns for her are her itch problems and past history. If she has been abused or pregnant before. She is overly friendly with humans but will bark at big and little dogs a like. We are in the process of going vegetarian or vegan, so we are trying our best to give her omega 3 chews, but she’s a little aggressive towards other dogs right now and we are trying to train a few habits out of her. Please recommend best diet. She loves squirrels and other animals and will stay at peoples cars if she sees an animal her breed or not and it is a very disturbing behavior when we are trying to keep her fit and adventurous with her dietary preferences. Please advise. Thank you in advance.

  2. Hi we have a 14 month old black lab we had her spayed at 6 months she is 21″ tall now & weighs in at as of 4th july 29.8 kilos, she does around 4-6 hours excersize per day playing walking running. We know her mother is average size for a golden lab and her father is a very large male black lab. Does the size of her parents dictate her size and is she the correct weight for her build, as a lot of people say there is so much conflicting info on weight and body condition, we have been feeding her on James Wellbeloved since 3.5 months old but we are at present changing her over to Tails.com food. Could you give us some info on the our questions please. Thank you

  3. Hello, my name is Kay and I have a black-mismatch Lab that is 6months old, she is very active, swimming at least 3-4 times a week and very solid she weighs about 58lbs now. We live out where we have deer and she thinks it is her duty to help feed them so as I am tossing the corn she does back flips every time I toss a handful. Ziggy also eats the corn right along with the deer if they tolerate her that day. My question is I have been noticing bumps and some dry flakey skin. Her diet is Taste of the Wild Bison dry for puppy’s and treats are cheese for training, dry liver bullies sticks and rings. can you help me here?

  4. Hi, I have a fully grown 3 and 1/2 yr black lab name Marley. She is now 5kilo over her ideal weight. We walk 5 k each day and have since l got her. She’s in a flyball training team we do each week as well as finishing her Obiedence training, she swims every other day. So l can only guess I must be over feeding her.im so confuse with dry dog food, can food, everybody tells me something different. Can l have your honest opinions on what you would feed her, if she was your dog. Regards Dianne Sly

  5. Hello All, I am a qualified canine dietician. I fully understand why most dogs owners get lost in the diet maze. Not long ago dry and canned diets were all we had to consider and if that wasn’t confusing enough, raw and cooked diets entered the market. Some making claims that makes me wonder if I shouldn’t be eating some of that food myself.
    Please feel free to direct any food questions my way 🙂 Pippa wld it be ok for me to add my contact details on here if anyone have any food and health questions?

  6. Hello sir actually mine problem is not regarding overweight it’s actually about underweight. I own a female Labrador she is 7 month old but not grown up like other puppies. her diet vaccination was alright but although her growth is stopped. please tell me what else I can do. really need your favour.
    thank you

  7. Thanks for this great info. I struggle keeping my Lab’s weight under control- overfeeding and not paying attention to what I am feeding her. Hard to resist her cute face.

    Any advise on how to read the food label? There are lots of items listed, most of which I don’t recognize.

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