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Much like we use candy to reward our children, we reward our puppies with treats and it makes them wag their little tails and sit on their bottoms. However, all these snacks can add unwanted pounds to your pet and dogs that suffer obesity can have serious health problems. Damage, sometimes permanent, is being done to your pet’s health.

Obesity in dogs is an accumulation of excess body fat and or Extra body weight. Extra body weight and extra body fat tend to go hand in hand, so most overweight dogs will have excess body fat. Obesity is usually the result of either excessive dietary intake or inadequate energy utilization, which causes a state of positive energy balance. Numerous factors may predispose an individual to obesity including genetics, the amount of physical activity, and the energy content of the diet. Obesity also becomes more common in old age because of the normal decrease in a dog’s ability to exercise, due to arthritis and/or other conditions.

International research suggests that this is a global problem, with surveys from various parts of the world showing that the incidence of canine obesity around 40 percent or more. Most investigators say that this health issue gets worse each year. Another survey showed that in 2014, 17.6 percent of dogs were clinically obese 30 percent or more overweight. Even worse, 95 percent of owners don’t realize that their plump dogs need to drop a few pounds.

Causes of Obesity in Dogs

The following factors can contribute to obesity in dogs:


  • Overfeeding – Feeding more than the pet will expend in exercise. Contributing dietary factors include table scraps, high-fat foods, number of meals, number of treats and frequent variation in diet.
  • Lack of exercise – Indoor-only pets are at higher risk of obesity.
  • Misconception of the canine body condition – Owner does not recognize obesity as being present.


  • Age – Dogs over five years of age decrease voluntary activity and burn fewer calories daily.
  • Genetic predisposition – Some breeds are predisposed to obesity, including terrier breeds, spaniels, dachshunds, beagles and Labrador retrievers.


  • Neutering/spaying – Decrease in production of sex hormones decreases energy expenditure and can cause changes in satiety (increased hunger).


  • Phenobarbital (anticonvulsant) can decrease satiety leading to overeating
  • Glucocorticoids can lead to abnormal fat deposition and weight gain


  • Hypothyroidism can contribute to weight gain
  • Insulinoma can contribute to weight gain
  • Hyperadrenocorticism can contribute to weight gain

Symptoms of Obesity in Dogs

Below are the basic symptoms or signs that a dog is overweight:

  • Weight gain
  • Excess body fat
  • Inability (or unwillingness) to exercise
  • High body condition score

How to assess your dog’s weight

Keeping regular track of your dog’s body condition can you as a pet owner determine the ideal weight for your dog. Try out these tips below;

The rib test

Stand behind your dog, gently run your hands along either side of the rib cage. You should be able to easily feel, but not see each rib, and your dog should have a waist or a tucked up area in front of the hind legs. If you can pinch more than an inch and/or your dog has lost his waist, it’s probably time to think about reducing.

The standing test

There is also the standing test. Look at the dog from the side—lean down and look from the side—and see if their abdomen or stomach is sagging. Then look from the top: From standing you should see an hourglass indentation in front of the hips. You should see the chest extend out and the waist tapers in making an hourglass.

While dogs vary widely in body shape and volume of hair and fur, this test should work for 95% of dogs, exceptions include English Bulldogs and Pugs

Problems associated with obesity in Dogs

Vets see these problems all too often, with obese pets posing greater risks from anaesthetic and surgical complications, heat or exercise intolerance, complications from cardio-respiratory disorders, hormone problems, skin disease, cancer and urogenital disorders – even early death. Canine obesity may even contribute to tracheal collapse and laryngeal paralysis too.

Other common canine problems suffered as a result of obesity include:

  • Diabetes – where the pancreas fails to secrete enough insulin in order to regulate blood glucose levels
  • Heart disease – caused by high cholesterol levels
  • Arthritis – directly affecting mobility, making it even harder for your pet to lose weight

Treatment of Obesity in Dogs

Treatment for obesity focuses on gradual weight loss that is sustainable in the long term. This is accomplished by reducing your dog’s caloric intake and increasing their activity levels.

Treating Obesity Through Diet

Your veterinarian can help create a diet plan, eating schedule and recommended daily calorie intake. Weight loss food for dogs that are rich in dietary protein and fiber but low in fat are typically recommended, since dietary protein stimulates metabolism and energy expenditure.

Protein also helps provide a feeling of fullness, so your dog will not feel hungry again shortly after eating. Dietary fiber also helps dogs feel satiated after eating, but unlike protein, contains little energy.

Treating with Exercise

Your dog is going to need more exercise to lose weight. If you do not already walk your dog daily for a specific period of time, start now. Schedule times to play fetch or tug-of-war. If you have an exercise schedule, increase the frequency and difficulty if possible. The most important thing is to make a commitment to a plan and stick with it, so your dog is at your mercy.

If you dog eats too fast, a special bowl that requires the pet to work to get each piece of food is available at most pet stores. Another good tool is a treat ball that dispenses treats only if your dog rolls it around (increasing exercise). Dog training is a fun way for both owner and pet to get exercise, but try rewarding your pet with green beans rather than high calorie treats.


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