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Causes, Treatment, and Prevention of Obesity in Dogs

An overweight beagle lays on a tiled surface

Did your vet tell you that your dog was overweight? There are many reasons that they may be overweight, and there are many side effects of being overweight.

About 20% of all dogs living in the US are overweight. So, you are not alone in treating a dog for obesity. If your dog is overweight, you can easily help your dog lose weight so that they can live a long and healthy life.

What is Dog Obesity?

Obesity is the accumulation of excess body fat on your dog’s body. There are online guides for dog obesity that you can use to judge to see if your dog is obese. A dog is considered to be obese when they weigh 20%+ over their ideal body weight.  

Risks of Dog Obesity

If your dog is obese, there are many other diseases that your dog can have. This can also shorten their lifespan significantly. Being obese can add to other issues like hip dysplasia. By being obese, your dog is at an increased risk for:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Urinary bladder stones
  • Anesthetic complications like heat tolerance
  • Excess fat secretes inflammatory hormones that can cause discomfort

Being overweight not only causes these diseases but puts extra strain on your dog’s joints. They can cause your dog to develop arthritis and have life long pain and discomfort.

Causes of Obesity in dogs

There are many different things that can cause your dog to be obese. These are just a few common reasons that your dog may be obese:

  • Your dog is eating too much food: If you are free-feeding your dog and not measuring their food, they can easily gain weight.  You need to measure your dog’s food
  • Your dog is eating too many treats: Treats contain many added calories.  All of these treats can really add up.  Look for treats that are lower in calories or snacks that are much better to give your dog.
  • Cushing’s Disease: Cushing’s disease is an overproduction of steroids in your dog’s body that can cause them to easily gain weight.
  • Hypothyroidism: If your dog has hypothyroid, they will have a very hard time losing weight and may even gain weight despite all the exercise and diet control.
  • Not enough exercise: Your dog will need exercise to stay healthy and happy.  Make sure that you are providing them with enough time outside to run and play.

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Diagnosing Dog Obesity

Obesity is usually very easy to diagnose. If you are having a hard time, figure out if your dog is overweight or not, you can visit your vet.  They can help determine if your dog is overweight and work with you on developing a plan on things to do to help your dog lose weight. 

Excess body fat is usually visible to the naked eye. A good rule to follow is to feel your dog ribs.  If you can easily feel their ribs with your bare hands, they are in good body condition.  If you cannot feel their ribs very easily, or at all, then your dog is overweight. 

Many of the body condition charts that you can find online also show images of a dog from above.  Your dog should have a nice waist and a tucked abdomen.  Dogs who are obese also have fat pads over their hips.

Fighting and treating obesity

If your dog is overweight, there are many different things that you can do to help them lose weight. These are things that you can do to help your dog lose weight

  • Feed a proper diet: The proper diet and portion control are crucial to combatting or preventing dog obesity. If you will decrease the amount of food that you are feeding your dog by about 25% will help them lose weight.
  • Stop feeding them treats:Instead of standard treats, consider frozen vegetables or fruits as a snack instead. You can also stop giving them until they are back at their normal weight.
  • Increase the amount of time they exercise:Getting plenty of exercise outdoors will help the dog stay in shape. If your dog is overweight, a little longer walk around the block or a few extra minutes of running and playing outside will help them lose weight
  • Switch to a weight loss diet: There is a diet designed specifically for dogs who are overweight. These diets are lower in calories and higher in fiber than many normal diets. This helps your dog feel full without the added calories.
  • See your vet:Sometimes, it is very hard to get your dog to lose weight. There is a certain endocrine disease such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease that can cause your dog to gain weight. If you are trying to get your dog to lose weight and they are still overweight, see you vet. They can run bloodwork to test your dog to see if they are overweight. Many of these diseases can easily be treated with daily medication.

Obesity in dogs can be a lifelong battle that can also cause your dog to have a shortened lifespan. There are many different signs that would lead you to think that your dog is overweight and many different things that are causing these issues.  

Your vet can easily help you decide if your dog is overweight and help you develop a treatment plan so that your dog can easily lose weight.

Meet The Author 

Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM


Since she was a little girl, Dr. Ochoa knew that her dream was to become a veterinarian. With a tremendous passion and love for animals, she is now a great source of knowledge for others. Dr. Ochoa lives happily with her husband Greg and her babies: Ruby the Schnoodle and Bam-Bam the bunny.

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