Little dog, big waistline?

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Small and miniature dogs, being little and cute or small and scrappy, are experts at getting the most coddling. They can also excel at eliciting more treats out of their owners. This means that owners have to be on their guard, because small and miniature dogs are just as likely to be overweight or obese as their larger-breed counterparts.

With weight issues tipping the scales as one of Europe's biggest pet problems, and one that's growing, it’s no wonder that vets are getting nervous. After all, canine obesity is a major contributing factor in health problems such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Pancreatitis
  • Breathing problems
  • Shortened life expectancy

Since some small breeds are already prone to respiratory concerns (especially those with shorter noses, such as Pugs), even a little bit of excessive weight can be a cause for concern.

Such serious health risks make it clear that we should help our four-legged friends keep at a healthy weight, but what causes little dogs to gain weight in the first place?

Breed Type

Some small dog breeds are renowned for their propensity to pack on the pounds:

  • Cairn Terriers
  • Dachshunds
  • Scottish Terriers
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
  • Cocker Spaniels

If you have a small dog that's prone to weight gain due to their breed you'll have to be extra-diligent in avoiding excess weight gain.

The right food 

If your dog eats meals that are high in calories, they’re likely to start looking a little overweight after a while, unless they’re a real fitness fanatic. Unfortunately, sporting that chubby look can seriously impact long-term health. For most little dogs, combining calorie-controlled food with regular exercise is a good way to keep fit and healthy.

Portion it out

Portion control can be a big problem when it comes to feeding little dogs. To avoid problems, some people find it helpful to measure out a daily food and snack amount into a separate container each day, and then feed their dog only what’s in the container, nothing more. Some prefer to measure food out at each meal, whereas others find that calorie counting is worth the extra effort .

Whatever your method, controlling the portion of your dog’s daily food intake is important to make sure they are getting just the right amount. Start with the amount listed on the label of your dog’s food, and adjust as needed from there.


Pets (and people) gain weight when they consume more calories than they burn. Portion control of main meals is key to avoiding weight gain, but we can't forget about snacks. Small dogs simply need smaller snacks. Find treats for small dogs with low calories, or break larger treats into smaller pieces to satisfy your small friend without piling on the calories.

Labels will tell

Carefully checking the labels on your dog’s food and treats will help you fight excessive weight gain. There you’ll find a full set of instructions for proper feeding amounts. Make sure to feed for your dog’s ideal, not current, weight. Remember that everything your dog eats, including treats, factor into their daily calorie intake – which ultimately affects the waistline.


Body Condition Score, or BCS, is the ratio of lean to fat (or adipose) body mass. Lean body mass is the weight of your dog’s bones, muscles, etc. Fat body mass, or adipose tissue, is simply that – fat. The higher the BCS, the more weight your dog will need to lose, with the ideal being a BCS of 3 out of 5. If your dog’s BCS is more than 3, you should ask your vet for a healthy weight-loss plan. Here is a handy tool to monitor your dog’s BCS at home:

Body Condition Score

Tips for workout success

  • Start slow
    Aim for manageable goals; slow and steady weight loss is the aim here. Your dog will need to take it slow at the beginning to avoid overexertion. Work with your vet to determine a healthy ideal weight and exercise plan. It may take months for your dog to get to their ideal weight so don’t get discouraged.
  • Think outside the box
    …or just get outside! One bonus of helping your pet lose weight is the fun new activities you can try together. Maybe take up swimming at your local lake for low-impact exercise that will be easy on your dog's joints. If it’s cold outside, supervise your small dog carefully while letting them doggie-paddle in a cool (not cold) bath.
  • Pick something you like, too
    Not a runner? You won't need to put yourself through the paces just to slim down your dog. Throwing a ball around, going for a long stroll, or navigating an agility course are all great alternatives to going for a jog. Your little companion will love doing whatever you do.
  • Resist those eyes!
    When your dog is gazing up at you, pleading for that tasty morsel, be strong! Less calories in means less excess weight, and calorie-rich human food is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to canine weight gain