Obesity In dogs - feature image with dog on some scales and text

Obesity In Dogs: Health Risks, Help Your Dog Lose Weight Safely, Prevention

Dogs can gain weight just like us! It’s a sad fact that dogs also struggle with excess weight, maybe not as emotionally as us humans. But, it’s certainly something that you need to be aware of when being a good dog parent.

If you’re here because your dog has gained weight, you need to understand the risks to your dog’s health and the risks when trying to help your dog lose weight.

Below is some vital information you need to know before you and your dog set out on the journey to lose weight safely.

Obesity is a severe health problem in dogs. Some dogs are obese because they overeat and don’t get enough exercise. Other dogs are obese because of a health problem called hypothyroidism.

This article will mainly focus on weight gain through too much food and little exercise. Right at the bottom of my article, I will then discuss hypothyroidism. Please be aware that this is something only a vet can diagnose. However, for now, we can learn about it here together.

All dogs can gain weight if they overeat. However, some dogs are prone to putting on weight more than others.

Breeds most likely to gain weight

Diet of Today’s Dogs

Many of today’s dogs eat too many processed foods and fatty foods, which they can’t resist eating. Being a responsible dog parent also means limiting the amount you feed your dog and choosing the better options for them, like a tasty, healthy carrot or boiled pieces of chicken over shop-bought treats.

Too many carbohydrates also pose a risk to a dog’s health. If not burnt off daily, carbohydrates are also a high contender for dogs gaining weight. 

Instead of giving a dog anything extra from your plate, like bread or potatoes, these have low nutritional value for a dog. Instead, try some sweet potato or oats. 

See my list here of carbohydrates, along with advice on how to serve to a dog! 

To understand a dog’s diet, you need to know the portion percentages

  • 50% Protein: such as cooked meat or fish 
  • 25% Vegetables and fruit
  • 25% Carbohydrates: such as sweet potato, oatmeal, or rice

Safe Low-Fat Healthy Fresh Treats

  1. Broccoli
  2. Cauliflower
  3. Carrot
  4. Spinach

Health Risks in Obese Dogs

When dogs gain weight, it unleashes so many health problems. Even the very tiniest amount can cause strain on the organs and pressure on the joints, especially for breeds like the dachshund’s weight can severely affect their delicate long backs and short legs.

Dogs that become overweight also become lazy. Their lack of wanting to play and walk around sends them further down the slippery path of obesity and depression.

Obesity In Dogs Can Cause the Following:

  • Unable to regulate their temperature in hot weather
  • Bone and joint strain
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Struggling immune system
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Heart problems
  • Liver function issues
  • Low stamina
  • Unhealthy Coat
  • Shorter live span
  • Skin irritations

As you can see, there are so many health issues that can occur in overweight dogs, and most of the time, dogs will have several of the above conditions, not just one of them.

Serious Problems from Excess Weight Explained

Diabetes Mellitus

If a dog is overweight and depends on its diet, it could suffer from type two diabetes. The dog’s body creates a substance that turns sugar/glucose into insulin. This process is natural and vital for the health of a dog. The pancreas is responsible for producing insulin. However, when the pancreas deals with heavy amounts of excess sugar, it starts to fail.

There is another type of diabetes that is more common in dogs. This happens before birth and will stay with the dog throughout its life. However, when a dog is obese and has type one diabetes, it will need to take medication to control its size.

If a dog doesn’t have access to insulin or if the insulin is of poor quality, the dog’s blood sugar level can easily become too high or too low, which can be fatal.

Heart Problems

If a dog suffers from heart problems such as hypertension, being obese only magnifies this. It means the heart must work even harder to pump the blood around the body.

To pump the blood around the heart must work fast. This overworking of the heart can cause heart attacks and heart failure.

Tachycardia is the name given to rapid heartbeat rate. If a dog has this issue, being obese will make this even worse, if not fatal. 

Another important reason why a dog should not gain weight or perhaps, in your case, your dog should lose weight.

Risk of General Anaesthetic

There is a considerable risk to obese dogs, which makes the administration of general anaesthesia very risky.


  • Anaesthesia is spread through fat. The more fat a dog has, the longer the body will take to recover.
  • The liver is mainly responsible for breaking down the anaesthesia. However, in many obese dogs, the liver is often very fatty and will not break down the anaesthesia as quickly as a healthy liver would.
  • Depending on the surgical procedure, it can be complicated because the fat is in the way, and surgery can also take longer.

Spayed/Neutered Dogs Weight Gain

When a dog has been either spayed or neutered, it can also be susceptible to gaining weight. You need to be aware of this phenomenon to appropriately adjust your dog’s food.

What is considered overweight for a dog?

A little as 15 per cent of a dog’s optimal body weight can have severe consequences on a dog’s health.

How to tell a dog is a perfect size?

The perfect size dog is when you can look down from above and see your dog’s waist slightly tucked behind the ribs. However, you should not be able to see induvial ribs.

Seeing induvial ribs on a dog is usually a good indication that a dog is underweight. 

If a dog has long fur, you can feel for the ribs with your fingers. If the ribs are bumpy, this is also a clear sign that the dog is underweight.

Weight Loss

If your dog is severely overweight, it is vital to start a careful diet and exercise routine. You must be cautious with how much exercise your dog does first and ensure that your dog gets all the essential nutrients they need when withdrawing food.

When helping your dog lose weight, it’s essential to know that you can’t just reduce their food to the minimum, especially if the food is of poor quality.

It’s vital to have food that offers your dog the very best. Please check the back of the label for any of these nasty ingredients. I know a well-known dog brand with 27% bone meal. I was so shocked to see it on the back of the packet. Check for these, and if you have any of them, I recommend changing to a better-quality dog food before restricting your obese dog’s food.

Nasty ingredients

Bone Meal: This is bones grounded up of any animal to provide poor quality calcium.

Derivatives: Can be any part of any animal, including beak, bones, or feet added. Sometimes it can state the type of animal. However, it will still be any part of that specific animal—classed as poor-quality nutrition.

Vegetable Derivatives: Vegetables from many possible vegetable sources. These can be either good or bad—generally, it’s human vegetable preparation waste.

Fat: Animal fat is often sprayed on dog food to make it tastier and more appealing. The fat comes from the cooking process of the animal, and when it’s heated to a very high temperature, and as the grease floats to the top, it’s gathered up for use. Dogs certainly need fat in their diet—however, it’s questionable if this is the best option.

Perfect ingredients

If your dog’s food has any of the below ingredients listed, then the food is of good quality. 

Vegetables: These are the purest of good quality vegetables needed in a dog’s diet.

Botanicals, Herbs or Plants: These are added health enhancements for your dog. If this is listed on the label, it means excellent quality dog food with your dog’s health at the forefront of their company.

Pure Meat: Meat taken from a specific animal. Such as beef, chicken, or duck. The best quality dog foods have pure or fresh meat labelled on the back.

What if your dog doesn’t want to change food

If you find that your dog is only eating the food you have and there is no room for change, and you have noticed some of these not very good ingredients, your dog will need a good quality dog multivitamin to go alongside their low-quality food.


Feeding your dog a multivitamin ensures they get a good supply of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids while their food portion size is restricted.

When choosing a good multivitamin for a dog, you should also check for the quality of the ingredients, much like dog food, check the label to make sure it has good quality ingredients, and check the company’s brand website for premium sourced nutrients.

Portion size

Give the correct portion size as per the back of the labelling. You’d be surprised how much you go over when scooping it out freely. You could make up several portion sizes of kibble so it’s easy to tip into the dog bowl as and when.


Exercise should not be longer or more demanding than the breed’s recommendations. There are many risks to an overweight dog’s health with extreme exercise. Such as damaging the joints, muscles and ligaments since they will be under pressure already due to the excess weight. 

Most average-sized adult dogs can be comfortable and maintain weight at two walks a day, between 20 minutes and 30 minutes each. Or one walk at 45 minutes.

If a dog is severally overweight, 20% extra or higher, even five minutes of exercise can be a strain. Extreme exercise is what you need to be aware of and how damaging it can be. 

Don’t go from zero exercises to a lot; the slower, the better. Combined with the reduced food and better quality, it’s a much safer option. 

If you are not sure how to help your severely overweight dog lose weight, a veterinarian or local canine nutritionist can help. They will be able to see your dog in person and create a plan specifically for them.

Exercise and heat exhaustion in overweight dogs

Another thing you need to be aware of when exercising an overweight dog is heat exhaustion.

Heat exhaustion is one of the common health problems in obese dogs. They find it hard to regulate their body temperature, and any over-exercising to try and lose weight can be fatal. Another reason why you must be so careful when introducing an exercise routine to them.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion in overweight dogs

  • Disorientation
  • Collapse
  • Glazed eyes
  • Heavy Panting

To help your dog during any heat exhaustion, try to bring their temperature down. You can do this by using cold, wet towels and splashing small amounts of cold water over them. However, you must never immerse a hot dog in cold water. Dunking a hot dog in cold water will result in shock and death. 

Feeding Time Advice

A good approach is using a puzzle feeder for an overweight dog at mealtimes. Using a puzzle feeder will make them work for the food. It will help them eat slower and appreciate the food more.

You can offer an overweight dog a home-cooked diet for a fresh and cleansed approach. However, there is a lot of planning and learning to get the meals nutritionally correct for a dog.

Make sure you tell the whole family when you’re helping a dog to lose weight. You will need to know what your dog is eating to be able to help them lose weight.

In the beginning, your dog may want to try and get your attention for food. So, shower your dog in love and cuddles. This could be the perfect filler. Oh, and maybe some new dog toys to keep them entertained.


The best thing we can do for our dogs is to help them not gain weight in the first place. However, I understand how easy it is to give in to those puppy dog eyes. 

Choosing better options for extra treats is vital, and you can boost their nutritional intake by offering a carrot whilst you eat your fatty lamb chop. 

The smaller things we can do will make a big difference and prevent obesity in dogs:

  • Weigh out your dog foods as recommended on the label
  • Get a good quality food brand, so they are not missing a nutrients
  • If you have a low-quality food brand, top-up their nutrients with a multivitamin
  • Offer fresh fruit and vegetables over shop-bought treats
  • Take them for their daily exercise

Also, when your dog is at its optimum weight, the above is all you need to do to continue with a healthy weight. 

The Aim

We certainly want the very best for our dogs, and weight is significant. The aim is to physically look like their optimum weight, and emotionally for a dog at their ideal weight to have a lot of energy and are interested in their surroundings. They are also motivated to learn during training and enjoy playing with their owners.


This condition can make a dog gain weight even when they don’t eat a lot. It’s because of a dysfunction of the thyroid gland located in the dog’s base of the neck. 

The thyroid gland is underactive and does not produce enough hormones. 

You can only treat this issue with medicine. 

If you have an overweight dog that doesn’t eat much, it is a high possibility of this issue. 

In this case, you must contact your veterinarian to get the diagnosis and, if needed, the critical medicine that will keep your dog alive and healthy.

Other symptoms of under reactive thyroid in dogs include unhealthy coat, fatigue, constipation, and weakness.

Good luck to you and your dog with the weight loss, and well done for educating yourself to prevent future problems.

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