Is My Small-Breed Dog Overweight?

Feeding Tips for Your Not-So-Small Small-Breed Overweight Dog

Worried that your pint-size pooch is packing on the pounds? Run your hands along his backbone. You should be able to feel (but not see) his ribs. You also should see a clearly defined waist behind the ribs. If you can't, follow these tips from Debra Eldredge, a veterinarian and coauthor of Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook (Howell Book House).

See the vet.Before you put your overweight dog on a diet, schedule an appointment with the vet to make sure an underlying health problem isn't causing the numbers to creep up on the scale.

Think beyond mealtime. Snacks and table scraps might account for your overweight dog's bulging belly, Eldredge says. If curtailing in-between meals doesn't make a difference, consider continuing with the same amount of food but switching to a different formula. Your vet can give you guidance.

Give him veggies. Thawed frozen green beans, canned pumpkin (which is fiber-rich and filling), and cut-up carrots make satisfying, low-calorie snacks for your pet.

Redo the numbers. A study showed that dogs can count up to six or seven, Eldredge says. If he is accustomed to getting two small biscuits as a treat, break one biscuit into two pieces. By his "accounting," he's still getting his two treats!

Rethink rewards. As much as your overweight dog loves treats, he also loves taking walks, playing, and spending time with you. You also can replace biscuits with a couple of pieces of the kibble that he would get at his meal.

Do the hunger test.Is your Bichon staring up at you with those beautiful eyes as you nibble on peanuts? He's probably not hungry. As you have your snack, offer him a piece of kibble. If he turns it down, he's not really hungry—he just wants your peanuts!

Put him on the scale.If your overweight dog has just a couple of pounds to lose, it can be hard to gauge whether he is making progress. Ask your clinic if it's okay if you stop in once a week so your overweight dog can step up on the doctor's scale.