Obesity in Dogs: What to Do

Obesity in Dogs: What to Do

  • Kirsten Thornhill - 15.02.2021

Your pupper is your go-to friend, your A1 day 1, your bestie, your companion. Of course you want to treat them to the most nutritious foods, tastiest treats, and best life there is to offer fido!


However, like us humans, obesity is a serious issue when it comes to our four-legged companions. While you and your roomies may think your furry friend is cute bein’ chubby, managing their weight is part of your responsibility as a paw parent. 


In today’s article, we’ll talk about what you need to know about obesity and being overweight in dogs as well as why it’s so crucial to prevent obesity before it takes its wrath. 



What is Obesity in Dogs?

According to the Veterinary Centers of America (VCA),  canine obesity can be described as an accumulation of excess body fat. 


We frequently hear ‘overweight’ and ‘obesity’ thrown around in conversation, but it’s really not a laughing matter. Obesity can massively impact your doggo’s life, affecting their health, overall well-being, and the quality of their precious life. Thus, taking preventative measures is crucial to ensuring that your puppers lives a long, healthy, and far from obese life. 


It has been believed by experts that obesity is most of the most preventable diseases in canines, yet, almost 30% of all doggos are considered obese. Hmmm. Food for thought if you really think about it. 


In addition, almost 45% of all dogs are considered overweight, between the ages of 5 - 11. So what’s the difference between an overweight dog and an obese one?



Obese vs Overweight Dogs: Which is Which?

Veterinarians can distinguish an overweight dog versus an obese dog based on their recommended body weight. If a canine weighs 15 - 20% over their recommended body weight, they are considered an overweight dog. Thus, if a canine weighs 20% or more than their recommended body weight, they are considered obese. 


Paw parents, obesity doesn’t just happen in the blink of an eye. It’s important that you, as a pet parent, maintain your dog’s healthy eating habits, making changes when need be. Ignoring the issue at hand won’t help your pup in the long run. 

What are the Symptoms of Obesity in Dogs?

Obese dogs aren’t just ‘fat dogs’, there are specific signs and symptoms to look for and make an awareness of. If you are able to recognize these signs and symptoms early on, you can help to reverse your pupper’s weight gain before the pounds really pack on. 


Some of the early signs and symptoms of dog obesity include:


  • Increased body fat
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Non-visible waistline
  • Excessive weight gain
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Respiratory issues
  • Decrease in mobility

What Factors Contribute to Canine Obesity?

Here at Petly CBD, we 100% believe that prevention is the best medicine - for you and your doggoos! Thus, in order to prevent obesity, paw parents must understand what causes it to develop in the first place. It’s no surprise to most, but dogs can become obese due to numerous factors besides just overeating. Let’s get into it. 

1. Age Matters


Obesity and age often work side by sides for doggos. As I’m sure you can imagine, the older a dog gets, the less active they may become. The less a dog is active, the higher chances of them becoming obese. 


Of course we wish we could keep our doggos forever young and healthy! Nonetheless, they will age regardless of our magical desires. This is why it’s so important as a paw parent that you keep your dog active, especially as they age. Read that again!


With most things, obesity comes with a whole slew of issues to potentially follow, which older dogs are no exception to. Again, vets typically diagnose obesity in dogs between the ages of 5 and 11. 



2. Physiological Factors


Physiologically, there are causes that may contribute to your dog’s obesity that aren’t entirely avoidable. Get familiar with your dog - their breed, their eating habits, their physical activity habits, how their gait is, etc. Find out if your dog is at an increased risk of developing obesity and take precautions for managing their weight now. 

3. Overeating


As you could guess, overfeeding is one of the most common culprits of canine obesity. This doesn’t necessarily just mean they have too much food in their bowl, this also includes those yummy table scraps fido always gets after your meals, high-fat treats and snacks they get throughout the day, and a lack of variety in their diet. 


When doggos eat more calories than they are able to burn off, the pounds may add on quickly. 


4. Lack of Physical Activity


A lack of exercise is HUGE when it comes to the development of an overweight or obese dog. Without proper exercise, your pup may develop secondary health issues beyond just the weight problem, such as joint issues, respiratory problems, and behavioral concerns. 

5. Medications


First things first: read the medication labels! Most medications have been known to cause weight gain in dogs. One of the most commonly associated weight gain medications is Phenobarbital. Phenobarbital is prescribed to dogs to help control seizure activity. But, it can cause increased hunger after meals, which may lead to overeating. 


6. Disease


If your dog has one or more of the following diseases, these may contribute to your dog’s obesity:


  • Insulinoma
  • Hyperadrenocorticism
  • Hypothyroidism


It’s crucial that you are aware of any pre-existing health conditions your pup has as well as how they may affect their daily living. 


Dogs with specific diseases that can trickle down to gain weight should be fed with a very specific diet, often recommended by your vet, in order to promote weight loss and management. 

7. Breed 


Certain breeds may be at a higher risk of developing obesity due to their genetics, such as:


  • Labrador retrievers
  • Spaniels
  • Dachshunds
  • Terrier breeds
  • Beagles

With this being stated, just because your dog is one of the following breeds, does not necessarily mean they’re destined for obesity. Any breed or mix of breeds may be susceptible to weight issues or obesity in their life. As a responsible paw parent, here’s where it’s important that you are aware of your dog’s habits and active lifestyle.


8. Absent Owner


Obesity can occur in dogs when the paw parents aren't really around, aware, or apparent of the issue. It’s possible that the dog owner may not realize that their pup is overweight or lacking exercise. However, that weight gain can really affect them as the years go on. 

Obese Dogs: What Happens Next?

Those secondary conditions I mentioned above? Well we’re touching on them here, right below. These slew of conditions can affect your pupper in numerous aspects of their life, including physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

Heart Issues


Just like us humans, obesity can cause an increased risk of heart concerns in doggos. When a dog becomes obese, their heart has to pump even harded to get blood circulating through the rest of their body. This excess weight puts a heavy amount of stress not only on the heart, but also on the blood vessels, leading to high blood pressure. 

Joint Concerns


Unfortunately, overweight dogs are at a higher risk of developing joint problems as they age. With more weight surrounding their bones comes more pressure on their joints. The extra weight not only causes inflammation of the joints, but may lead to chronic whole body inflammation and excessive lethargy from possible pain. 



Overweight doggos are at a higher risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes too. This may lead you down a long road of pharmaceuticals for insulin and glucose regulation in order to manage the disease. 

Quality of Life 


If your dog is obese, he or she may not be able to jump up onto the couch to cuddle with you or chase other dogs at the park. Many overweight dogs may even face depression or disinterest in trying to do active things due to their weight gain. Obesity may limit their ability to live their best life. 




Bad vs Good Fat for Dogs


Obviously, not all fat is bad fat. But, also, not all fat is good fat either. Dogs do need fat on their bones to function properly, maintain their homeostasis, and have energy to do daily activities. 


Obesity in Canines: Final Thoughts


At the end of your long, stressful day, we know you only want the absolute best for your four-legged friend. As a responsible and caring paw parent, it’s important that you recognize, understand, and work to maintain your dog’s weight, overall well-being, and quality of life. Obesity may not quite seem like a ‘big deal’, but it really is. 


A table scrap here and there or a treat post dog park session won’t hurt, but continuous overfeeding does add up for your pooch. If you dog is struggling with weight management, we highly recommend talking with your holistic veterinarian about creating a personalized diet and exercise plan for your fur baby.


Here at Petly CBD, we truly believe that doggos can live their best life by your side! It may be time consuming on your end, but your pup will thank you for that extra long walk around the neighborhood one day. 




Williams K, Downing R. Obesity in dogs. Veterinary Centers of America. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/obesity-in-dogs#:~:text=Obesity%20is%20an%20accumulation%20of,trying%20to%20measure%20body%20fat. 

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