Obesity in Dogs: How to Help Your Pup Lose Weight

Fewer things are more adorable than a soft, squishy dog tummy. But how soft and squishy is too weak and squishy? Excess fat, while cute in small doses, can seriously threaten your dog’s health. Obesity is a prevalent and risky health condition that all owners should be aware of. But where should you start? Don’t worry; DogFriendly’s got you covered with this guide o obesity in dogs.

What is obesity?

Obesity is the term used to describe excess body weight or fat on an animal. Though, it is different from being overweight. When a dog weighs 10 to 20% of their ideal body weight, they are considered overweight. Anything higher would classify them as obese.

What causes obesity?

Obesity is most often a result of either overfeeding a dog or lack of exercise. Though, obesity can also be a symptom of other health problems such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease. If you think it is a side effect of another health anomaly, contact your vet immediately.

How can I tell if my dog is obese?

The best way to determine if your dog is obese is by weighing them. Though, you can also gain valuable information about your dog’s weight just by looking at them. If you can’t feel your dog’s ribs or hip bones when pressing against their bodies, it’s possibly a sign that your dog is carrying excess fat. Depending on your dog’s breed, you might also see a distended or lower-hanging stomach (also known as an “untucked” stomach) and a thicker base of their tale if they’re obese.

obesity chart VCA
Courtesy of VCA Animal Hospitals

Why is obesity so serious?

Obesity is the most common preventable disease that affects dogs in the United States. It is known to shorten a dog’s lifespan and put them at higher risk for other diseases or complications such as heart disease and certain types of cancer. Studies have shown that even moderate obesity can shorten a dog’s life by two and a half years. Since dogs lifespans are much shorter than ours already, it’s important to understand and prevent the dangers of obesity in dogs in order to keep them happy and healthy as long as possible.

Senior dogs are most likely to become obese, but any dog of any size, age, or breed can suffer from obesity. Older dogs are more likely to suffer from degenerative diseases such as Arthritis which make it more difficult for dogs to exercise or move about. The less calories a dog burns, the fewer calories they should eat. When this balance is tampered with, obesity is more likely to affect your dog.

What are some ways to combat obesity?

If your dog is obese, getting them back to a healthy weight may be difficult. But, with lots of dedication and patience, it is possible – and a worthy battle at that! The first step to helping your furry friend lose weight is to talk with your veterinarian. Some people assume shrinking the amount of food their dog eats will help them lose weight, but this can put them at risk for malnourishment. What’s important is finding less calorie-dense dog foods that still give your pup the nutrients they need.

Regular exercise is also essential, which might be difficult depending on how heavy or old your dog is. Some overweight or obese dogs have enjoyed swimming as a form of exercise, as it takes the weight off their joints and causes more minor discomfort. Other forms of exercise include walking, hiking, and agility. Be sure not to overwork your dog when starting to exercise them, though. Start small and slowly build your way up to ensure your dog is comfortable. If you’re unsure of what your dog’s limit is, talk to your vet – they can help you create an exercise regimen that works for you and Fido.

Weighing your dog regularly is also essential to helping Fido shed a few pounds. After all, you can’t know you’re headed in the right direction without a guide.


Obesity, while common, is a serious ailment that can have devastating effects on your dog if left untreated. Responsible dog owners prioritize their dog’s diet, exercise, and overall health.

Abigail Kurten
Author: Abigail Kurten

Hi! My name's Abigail, and I intern as a Content Writer for DogFriendly.com. I have one dog, a chocolate lab named Riley who's the best! My favorite breed of dog is a Bulldog or Saint Bernard, though.

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