Canine obesity is a growing problem. It's estimated that 25 percent of dogs in the United States are overweight. Unfortunately, these overweight dogs are prone to the same kinds of health risks and diseases that obese humans are.

You can tell if your dog is overweight by giving him a simple feel test. Stand over your dog and look for his waist, the indentation just behind his ribs. Now that you know where his ribs are, put your hands on them. Can you feel your dog's ribs? His ribs shouldn't be bony or sticking out, but you should feel them clearly below layers of skin and muscle. If all you feel are rolls of fat, your dog is overweight.

The good news is, just like overweight people, your dog can lose weight; however, he'll need your help to do it. The first thing you should do is to take your dog to the vet. The vet can then check if any residual health issues exist that need to be considered when deciding what kind of exercise and diet is good for your dog. Your vet will also let you know what a safe rate of weight loss is for your dog. If your dog loses weight too quickly, that can also endanger his health.

Use your vet's advice when designing an exercise and diet regimen for your dog. Exercise can be easily accomplished, such as going for walks. However, start your dog slowly, especially if he doesn't have good stamina yet. Dogs don't have as good a natural cooling system as humans, so don't assume if you're okay on a walk, your dog is okay, too. Dogs are loyal creatures and they will work hard to keep up with you, even if they really can't.

As for feeding your dog -- only feed him at mealtime. If you must give him snacks, healthy options include apples, bananas, carrots or broccoli.