Overweight In Dogs – How Bad Is It?

Overweight canine’s and canine obesity is an important – and very common – medical condition with serious health implications.

Contributing Factors

Feeding Habits: Much of the rise in overweight canines can be attributed to feeding habits. Such habits include free feeding – filling the bowl and allowing the dog to graze through the day and overfeeding at select meals can be just as bad. High-calorie treats and table snacks only add to the problem.

Lack of Exercise: The formula for eating vs. exercise is straightforward: When your furry friend takes in more calories then he or she expends, they’re going to put on weight. Many dogs simply aren’t getting enough exercise to compensate for how much they eat.

Slowing Metabolism: Just like people, your dog’s metabolism slows with age. Most dog’s metabolism starts to slow at 5-6 years of age. Once a dog is altered (spayed or neutered) they require fewer calories to maintain a healthy weight. This need for decrease is due to a major source of hormones being removed, therefore, slowing down their metabolism.

Breed: Genetics play a role too. Certain breeds are simply prone to weight gain, notably beagles, cocker spaniels, collies, shelties, basset hounds, dachshunds and Labrador/golden retrievers.

Hormonal Disorders: A wide array of hormonal disorders and other ailments also lead to or complicate our dog’s being overweight. Disorders range from hypothyroidism to Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism). These disorders could also be a result of overweight canines.

Related Health Problems

Next time your pup flashes you those big brown “I’m so hungry” puppy dog eyes at you, consider that an overweight dog faces an array of health problems. He or she is more likely to be at greater risk for developing or exacerbating:

  • Diabetes
  • Skeletal stress, including damage to joints, bones, and ligaments
  • Respiratory problems, increased blood pressure and heart disease
  • Decreased stamina and heat tolerance
  • Decreased liver function
  • Digestive disorders
  • Decreased immune function
  • Dermatology problems; skin and coat problems
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Decreased length and quality of life

Any of which may add up to a shorter life. An independent study by Purina demonstrated that dogs that had their food intake restricted and were kept at an ideal weight throughout their lives had a median lifespan 15% greater than those dogs fed free choice.

The Solution

It’s important to take a slow and steady approach toward making a change for the sake of safety and long-term results. Here are some canine weight-loss guidelines to consider:

  • Establishing a well-managed diet and exercise regimen is the number one priority in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight for your dog. Crash diets are never the answer.
  • The safest rate of weight loss for any dog (or mammal for that matter) is generally considered to be between one and two percent of total body weight per week. Losing weight at this rate is safer and more effective for establishing new healthy habits. Inducing weight loss at a rate faster than two percent of total body weight per week is more likely to reduce lean tissue (muscle) and result in a weight gain rebound.
  • Regular weigh-ins (once a month) to ensure he or she is on the right track as part of – our Slim Fit Program is highly recommended.

The Slim Fit Program is an interactive program to help owners with their pets weight loss. Each Slim Fit pet is assigned a Slim Fit Counselor to assist with weight loss ideas and to monitor success. Any weight loss should be customized to fit your dog; based on starting weight, weight regular adjustments as body mass is reduced.

Prepare for the long haul. You are training your dog to eat less and exercise more. This is just as difficult for dogs as it is for humans. Make your end goal a healthy lifestyle for your dog and you will have a much better chance of success.


Written by Baxter Animal Hospital