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Obesity in Dogs

Obesity in Dogs

According to the AVMA, 52.5% of dogs in the United States were determined to be overweight in a 2012 survey.  There are diseases, metabolic issues, medications, treatments, and other health related causes of obesity in dogs.  This article is addresses dogs who are obese due to over-feeding and lack of exercise.  A veterinary exam and appropriate blood tests can be used to rule out possible medical reasons for obesity. 

Obesity puts your dog at risk for the following medical issues:

  • Skin problems
  • Kidney Disease
  • Problems with bones, joints, and ligaments
  • Heart and lung disease
  • Heat stroke
  • Decreased immune function
  • Diabetes
  • Many forms of Cancer
  • Pancreatitis
  • High fat levels in the blood
  • Anesthetic and surgical complications
  • High blood pressure
  • Decreased lifespan (up to 2.5 years)

Obesity Top photo Michele Arnold Bottom Dr. Deborah E Linder at Tufts U

With that being said, how can you determine if your dog is overweight?

Put your hands down the sides of your dog.  You may use your fingertips to feel the ribs.  You should be able to feel your dog’s ribs with ease. 

When your dog is standing normally, look down at the top of your dog’s back.  Your dog’s body should not appear to be wide and flat.  His body should be tapered on the sides.

Your dog should have a visible waistline.

The stomach and chest area should not be sagging.

You may weigh your dog at home by holding him while standing on the scale.  Take the total weight and subtract your own weight to determine your dog’s weight.  According to Georgia Veterinary Medical Association, obesity in dogs is indicated when a dog is above 15% of his target weight.

How to Deal:

Increase exercise.  Plenty of brisk walks work wonders.  Play in your yard or at the dog park.  Fetch provides great exercise for dogs.  Running and playing with other dogs is great because if you had a hard day, you can just sit back and watch the dogs entertain themselves as they run around and frolic. Younger dogs require more exercise than elderly dogs. 

Cut down on the treats and snacks or completely cut them out!  Less is more.  Of course there are cases in which for medical reasons in which a dog might require frequent snacks, but when a dog is overweight, this is a different story.  It’s all about the dog NOT about the pleasure YOU get when you give your dog treats!  Your love goes a very long way and provides a reward that far exceeds treats and snacks.  Look at the calorie count on the treats.  You can even make your own.  Check out my article:  St. Patrick’s Day recipe.

Obese Dog Scale650px

Make sure you are giving the right amount of food based on your dog’s breed.  Don’t feed a Chihuahua a meal that is suited for a Rottweiler.  Adhere to the feeding recommendations on the food label.  Try a more appropriate diet.  Most conventional vets recommend their prescription diets and enjoy picking up the extra kickbacks that they get from the manufacturers.  Check my article What’s Really in Dog Food? and you will be likely to change your mind and possibly educate your vet.  Consider reading my article What I Feed my Own Dogs Most conventional vets will provide incorrect information about salmonella.  My article Salmonella: What’s the Truth? will educate you and your vet about what the facts are.  A problem with talking to vets about legitimate information is that many have sensitive egos.  Remember that THEY are the ones who went to vet school and by questioning them about different treatment is also questioning their medical judgment.  This is understandable.  You are giving them information that they are unfamiliar with because they often stick with what they learned at the cost of neglecting to keep up with the current research.  This is why many of them are focused on conventional medicine rather than combining holistic medicine.  Keep in mind that YOU are paying and you are entitled to the best care possible for your pet.

You should try to exercise obese dogs each day.  Exercise includes walking, running, and playing.  Exercise can include indoor playing as well.  Depending upon the amount of room you have in your home, playing with your dog and throwing around a toy can be very entertaining for you and your dog.  I hope it would be obvious that when you play around in your home, it’s a good idea to consider safety.  I recall the Brady Bunch episode when a vase broke because the boys were playing ball in the house.  “Mom always said don’t to play ball in   the house!”  Just be careful!  If playing and running around is too much, then stick to walking.  As your dogs sheds weight, you will notice that he will have more energy and will be able to be more active.  Obese dogs might not be able to tolerate that much exercise so if you figure out how long Fido is comfortable with walking, you can increase his walk by a minute or each day or two.  Try to get up to 30 minutes.  As he loses weight, he will be able to enjoy more time outside.  

Dogs with health issues like arthritis, heart issues, breathing issues (like flat-faced dogs), and extreme weather conditions might not be able to handle much activity.  If a dog is obese, remember that carrying all that extra weight causes wear and tear on the bones and the organs. 

Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center has a body condition scoring chart.


Burns, Katie. “The fat factor Confronting the problem of overweight pets.” javma News (2013): n. pag. AVMA. Web. 7 Apr. 2014. is an educational resource, and all information herein is strictly for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure disease, nor is it meant to replace the (prescribed) veterinary treatment. Always inform your veterinarian or healthcare provider of any products that your pet is taking, including herbal remedies and supplements. Please do plenty of research so that you may equip yourself with the knowledge necessary to be an effective advocate for your dog’s well-being.

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  1. Leslie Olsen

    I know this is a problem for many dogs – but I think it is the dog owner. I run (a lot) so my dogs love to run and they have never been overweight. As a matter of fact one of them is borderline underweight – if only it would slow him down.

  2. Janie

    Yup… Exercise is important. I have a friend who feeds her dog properly, but one of her dogs is on the skinny side because she is so active. Many people have dogs, but they don’t have enough time to exercise them enough. That plus the poor diet and excess of treats is a bad combo. Good for you for keeping yourself and your dogs active. You will be healthier and so will your dogs :o)

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