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Obesity In Dogs: Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Obesity In Dogs

Obesity or overweight is a complex nutritional disease involving an excessive amount of body fat. Being overweight isn't just a cosmetic concern anymore. Even if your dog is only moderately overweight, this can result in adverse serious health effects that could curtail your dog’s life span. Health issues and Obesity can have a reciprocal association: Obesity can lead to health issues but health issues can lead to obesity, as well (for example, Hypothyroidism).

Obesity increases the risk of other diseases and health problems, such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney diseases, and various respiratory diseases. While obesity can occur in dogs of all ages, the tendency to gain excess body weight is most commonly seen in middle-aged dogs between the ages of 5 - 10. Indoor and Neutered dogs seem to have a higher risk of becoming obese.

A clinical study featuring Labradors revealed that ideal weight dogs’ lifespans generally were 2 years more than their rather obese counterparts (overweight 15%). More good news is these properly weighed dogs also had late onset of chronic sicknesses. Another parallel study has shown the poor quality of life for obese pets and enhancement of certain measures (such as pain and vitality) after a weight loss program.

The body condition score (BCS) 9-point is a grading system used to assess a dog’s obesity. This is a descriptive and visual resource that details ideal, overweight, and underweight dogs. A perfectly weighted dog would have a BCS of 4 or 5, whereas a fairly obese dog would have a BCS score of 6 or 7. An obese dog's score will be ≥ 8 or 9. BCS score of 8 or 9 draws parallels to a body fat percentage of ≥ 40 percent.

Symptoms Of Obesity

  • Weight gain
  • No obvious ribcage
  • Excess body fat
  • Inability (or unwillingness) to exercise.
  • Distended abdomen
  • Lack of mobility
  • High body condition score

Treatment Options For Obesity

Proactive vs Retroactive Management:

Proactive obesity management includes:

  1. Know your dog’s ideal weight based on its size, breed, and age, and Monitor continuously.
  2. Choose a dog food that is appropriate for your dog.
  3. Don’t overindulge - Portion control is significant.
  4. Avoid feeding leftovers and table scraps.
  5. Follow a daily routine involving exercise and other calorie-burning activities.

Retroactive obesity management includes:

  • Institute a weight-monitoring plan.
  • Work out your dog's daily calorie intake - 70 x (Ideal Body Weight in kg)^0.75.
  • Treats count in your dog's daily calorie intake - manage the number of treats you offer your dog in a day.
  • Find out the right food and amount.
  • Set a correct feeding schedule.
  • Monitor the dog’s weight every two weeks on the diet.
  • Promote a slow and steady increase in activity and exercise right through the weight-loss plan.
  • Post-diet weight loss - Monitor progress regularly.

Home Remedies For Obesity

Exercise Options:

  • For Younger Dogs: Playing with other dogs, chasing a ball or Frisbee, going for a run or hike, etc.
  • Older Dogs: Having a canine buddy come over to hang out, walk around the neighborhood, etc.

Non-exercise Options:

  • Treat dispensers, Toys, Chewable goodies, and more.

Hydrotherapy - (or aquatic therapy) is a type of physical therapy utilizing the buoyancy of water where dogs perform certain exercises in water and it helps to maintain muscle mass.

Physical Therapy - May include massage, ultrasound therapy, electric stimulation, and application of heat and cold compress.

Prevention Of Obesity

  1. Check with your vet to make you decide on the most fitting foods for your dog. Depending on their life stage, Puppies need a formulated food that will meet their particular dietary needs. Moreover, a small-breed puppies' nutrient profile requirement is different of large-breed puppies.
  2. Check with experts to find out the correct age for puppies to switch to adult food. Puppy formulation is not a good option for adult dogs as they have different needs from puppies.
  3. Older dogs need a special formulation for dwindling health. More importantly, dogs with certain diseases or health conditions have very specific dietary requirements.
  4. Add to your dog's exercise options. Figure out the most advantageous body condition score so that you will come to know the balance between calories consumed and calories used up.
  5. There is no better way to merge taking walk with our dogs outdoors into the agenda of weight management. Calorie-burning activities of dogs include fetch, running alongside you, and swimming.

Affected Breeds Of Obesity

There is no breed disposition. Bichon Frise, Beagle, Border Collie, Boxer, Bulldog, Basset Hound, Chihuahua, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, Dachshund, English Springer Spaniel, French Bulldog, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Jack Russell Terrier, Labrador Retriever, Pug, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Shih Tzu, West Highland White Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier

Additional Facts For Obesity

  1. Risk Factors:
  • Lifestyle factors: Posture, overuse of joints, etc.
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Older age
  • Joint injuries
  • Genetics
  • Reproductive status, inactivity
  • Diet and palatability
  1. Morbidity:
  • Many studies suggest that more than most of the diagnosed dogs are middle-aged ones (from 5 - 10 years).
  • Almost 59% of all pets are obese and in that, and as many as 35% of all dogs are overweight by the time they’re 6 months old.
  • Neutered pets are 200% most likely to be overweight than normal pets.
  • Obese owners are more likely to have obese pets.
  • Overweight pets live 2 years shorter on average than their ideal weight counterparts.
  1. Types:

There are 2 recognized BCS scales employed; one ranging from 1 - 9 and the other from 1 - 5. Some vets may prefer the 1 - 9 scale, which has more chances/categories to spot subtle weight changes than the 1 - 5 scale. Whatever scales you prefer, it is best to make out the scale by referencing the highest number. For instance, a dog with a BCS of 3 would be slimmer on the 9-point scale (5/9) and ideal weight on the 5-point scale (3/5).

  1. Mortality:

There are few studies that state obese dogs have a higher mortality rate than normal dogs (both are of the same age). This is due to the complications that develop such as blood pressure, heart conditions, and respiratory crisis.

  1. Diagnosis:
  • Routine hematology, Urinalysis
  • Abdominal radiographs, ultrasound, or CT scan
  • Body condition score (BCS).
  1. Prognosis:

Obesity is a chronic condition that requires continuous treatments. The prognosis for Obesity is guarded. As the existing condition is not life-threatening, rigorous treatment is usually not necessary. However, relapse is possible following treatment in affected dogs.

When To See A Vet

Contact your vet right away, if you notice any of the following:

  • Weight gain
  • No obvious ribcage
  • Excess body fat

Food Suggestions For Obesity

  • 75% of a Dog’s food should be complete, wholesome food certified by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
  • The remaining 25% of your dog’s diet can be canned food or other foods.
  • Regulated treats that are part of the daily calorie intake.
  • Leafy greens: Spinach, lettuce, kale, green beans.
  • Fiber-filled veggies: Pumpkin, sweet potato, acorn squash.
  • Fatty fish: Salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, etc.
  • Lean protein: Chicken, turkey.
  • Omega-3 oils: Fish oil, green-lipped mussel oil.
  • Antioxidant-packed fruits: Cherries, blueberries, peeled apple, cantaloupe.
  • Vitamin-rich veggies: Cauliflower,Broccoli, etc.
  • Herbs and spices - Fresh ginger root, Turmeric, Cinnamon, Parsley, etc.


Obesity increases the risk of other diseases and health problems, such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney diseases, and various respiratory diseases. Provide a well-balanced diet and ensure your dog always stay hydrated.

Obesity may signal some serious conditions that are luring inside that must be addressed quickly. Consider seriously the changes in your dog's diet and lifestyle.

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