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Dog Obesity Prevention and Health Risks

Updated on January 26, 2009
Whitney05 profile image

Whitney has over 10 years of experience in dog training, rescuing and dog healthcare.

Flickr image by Subspace
Flickr image by Subspace

Prevent Dog Obesity

The risks of caring for an obese dog can range from irritating to severe. At the first signs that your dog is becoming overweight, you want to start prevention, if not earlier, as it's so much easier to prevent obesity that it is to treat it.

Consider the following causes to your dog's weight gain; if you can pinpoint what's causing your dog to gain weight, you can fix the problem before it become excessive (unless of course it's the dog's age or breed that is influencing the weight gain the most).

  • Food type
  • Food availability (free feed or scheduled feedings)
  • Regular activity level
  • Altered (is the dog spayed or neutered)
  • Breed
  • Age
  • Social environment (stress)
  • Physical Environment (temperature)
  • Other medications

Here are a few tips that you will want to consider when preventing dog obesity:

You'll want to start with a diet that is age appropriate (puppy food for puppies and senior food for seniors).

You'll, also, want to reduce regular treats; if you have to break up one treat into a few small pieces instead of feeding your dog a few regular sized treats. This will help reduce the number of calories that your dog intakes. You also want to remove table scraps from your dog's diet.

You want to make sure that you exercise your dog regularly. That doesn't mean put the dog in the backyard for an hour to play fetch. You need to run or walk your dog at least once a day. Exercising your dog will help burn calories as well as strengthen your dog's respiratory and circulatory systems keep muscles toned and joints flexible, keep your dog's mind active, and aid in overall digestion.

And, because obesity can sometimes be caused by other health problems, you'll want to make sure that your dog has a clean bill of health. If you notice that your dog has an increased appetite or that he starts gaining weight, you'll want to consult your veterinarian. By treating any potential health concerns, you may be helping out your dog with his weight concern.

The following health conditions can contribute to obesity.

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cushing's disease
  • Insulinoma
  • Adult onset diabetes
  • Pituitary gland and brain diseases

Dog Obesity Chart

Health Risks Caused by Obesity

Obesity can be a big concern for your pet, as it can lead to a long list of other health concerns. The more excess weight that your dog has to carry, the more stress that is put on his body. If you think that your dog may be overweight, or you have a dog who's breed is prone to obesity, then you'll want to make sure that you're aware of the health risks that are caused by obesity.

Flickr image by somanyamys
Flickr image by somanyamys
Flickr image by polietileno
Flickr image by polietileno

Diabetes: Obesity causes the body to increase insulin secretion because the body of an overweight dog has an increased blood glucose level. When your dog's body cannot produce enough insulin, diabetes develops; if the need for insulin increases over a long-term period, the cells in the dog's pancreas can actually "give out," which is what actually causes the condition.

Damage to joints, bones, and ligaments: Because overweight dogs have to carry more weight, they are prone to joint, bone, and ligament problems. About 25% of obese dogs end up developing some kind of serious joint complication. Arthritis and hip dysplasia are two conditions that will drastically worse and progress in overweight dogs. Some dogs may experience knee concerns, where the patella become unstable, which is usually caused by a torn ligament, and some dogs may experience a slipped disc, or inter-vertebral disc disease (common amongst dogs with longer spines, such as Dachshunds).

Heart disease and increased blood pressure: Similar to obese people, overweight dogs tend to suffer hypertension (increased blood pressure) because the heart has to work harder in order to pump blood to the excess tissue. Long-term, this can lead to congenital heart failure.

Other common conditions can evolve from difficulty breathing, decreased stamina, constipation, intestinal gas, heat intolerance, increased oil production to the skin and coat, decreased liver function, and overall decreased immune function.

Dogs who are severely overweight, can suffer increased anesthetic risks due to heart and lung conditions. It's not uncommon for obese dogs to suffer cardiac arrest because their heart cannot serve enough oxygen to the blood and tissues, which is increased during a surgical operation.

Female dogs can suffer problems when giving birth, which is usually caused by problems breathing.

The main concern that one with an obese dog should be worried about a general decrease quality of life and the length of life. Overweight dogs tend to be more irritable due to being in pain, hot, or just plain uncomfortable, and due to the decreased stamina, overweight dogs tend to exercise less, which increases the obesity risks further. Typically, if other things are equal, dogs who are obese, tend to die at a younger age than dogs who have an optimum weight level.


Disclaimer: Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed veterinarian. The methods outlined above may or may not work for your pet. If you have any concerns, you should consult a veterinarian.


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      My dog haw begun to get fat since we fixed her awhile back. She isn't obese yet and i don't plan to let her be but i don't know how to fix it. Ive been trying the above methods but her weight has not gone down or stopped. Any advice? (also as a side note: she is fixed. she lives outdoors (with proper shelter and human contact) and also after we got her fixed she had a very sudden time where her hips were hurting her badly. It was not hip displysia and we still don't know what caused it. She isn't in pain anymore but cant run for long periods without pain. What do you think caused this? She had and has no other symptoms. The weight gain happened after the huge hip deal not during it. She is not over eating. Any advice would be great on either account.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      we fostered an obese 5 year old labrador whc is now rehomed however he is suffering greatly from his weight in the hot weather, and has also been havng regular seizures and will be on medicaion for the rest of his life (hes been given 12 months at most by the vet). Please look after your dogs properly and stop killing them with kindness, for goodness sake you never see an obese wolf do you? their bodies cant cope.

    • Whitney05 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Georgia

      You are correct. They really are suffering on the inside even if they look cute on the outside. It's just not cute to have an overweight pet.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I've seen many obese cats and dogs that seem really cute! At first I thought we feed these animals because they'd look better if plum. They look more cuddly and adorable. Proper monitoring of their diet is essential because they might look cute on the outside but really suffering from the inside.

    • profile image

      Bonnie Jean Duprey 

      9 years ago

      I am devastated by the death of my Pomeranian. She became obese in late life and I didn't help her. Her lungs finally collapsed. I could have had a few more years with her if I kept her on her diet. I'm not certain how I let this happen, it's almost insane, considering how much I loved this dog. Please, if your dog is getting fat, just stop. BD


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