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Obesity in Dogs

December 22, 2022

Did you know that over half of our canine companions are obese? We know, chubby pets are cute. However, that extra weight puts Fido at risk of developing several serious health problems. Read on as a Lasalle County, IL vet discusses obesity in dogs.


Dogs are considered overweight when they weigh more than 10 percent over their ideal body weight. Once a pooch weighs over 20 percent more than he should, he’s officially obese. Of course, many people don’t know what their furry buddies should weigh. Plus, gauging Fido’s body condition can be tricky with fluffy dogs. You can get an idea by doing the rib test. However, your vet is going to be the ultimate authority on this. 


Scientists are still learning about how fat behaves, and how it affects the body. One of the dangers here is that fat secretes hormones that contribute to many different diseases. Some of the health risks obese pups face include reproductive issues, liver and kidney trouble, hypertension, osteoarthritis, and bladder stones, to name a few. Plus, that extra weight will strain Fido’s bones and joints, cardiovascular system, and respiratory system. Overweight dogs also have shorter life expectancy than their trimmer buddies. In fact, one study of Labrador Retrievers found that being even moderately overweight shortens their life expectancy by two years!


As one may suspect, diet plays a huge role in dogs’ weight. Portion sizes are crucial here. Even overfeeding your canine buddy by a few calories a day can cause him to pack on pounds. It’s also worth mentioning that Man’s Best Friend is very, very good at getting us to share our snacks with him. Ask your vet for specific advice, and let that guidance—not Fido’s cajoling stare—determine what’s on the menu.

Weight Loss 

Do you have a chubby pup on your hands? Consult your vet before putting Fido on a diet. Just like people, dogs must lose weight slowly to do so safely.


Fido needs proper activity to stay fit and healthy. The amount and type of exercise needed varies from pooch to pooch: a Chihuahua’s ideal workout regimen is very different from a German Shepherd’s! That said, most pups need at least a daily walk. Ask your vet for more information.

Our Advice on Obesity in Dogs in 2024

How can you tell if your dog is overweight?

To determine if your dog is overweight, start with the rib test: you should be able to feel, but not see, your dog’s ribs without pressing hard. Observe their body shape from above and from the side; an overweight dog will lack a noticeable waist and may have a rounded abdomen. Fluffy dogs may require a closer examination due to their thick fur. However, for an accurate assessment and guidance on achieving an ideal body weight, consult your veterinarian, who can provide specific recommendations based on your dog’s health and breed.

What are the health risks of obesity in dogs?

Obesity in dogs can lead to several serious health risks, including reproductive issues, liver and kidney problems, hypertension, osteoarthritis, and bladder stones. Excess weight also puts additional strain on a dog’s bones, joints, cardiovascular system, and respiratory system, potentially leading to decreased mobility and quality of life. Moreover, obesity can shorten a dog’s life expectancy significantly. For instance, studies have shown that even moderately overweight dogs can have their lifespan reduced by up to two years compared to their healthier counterparts.

What are healthy food options for overweight dogs?

For overweight dogs, healthy food options include low-calorie, high-fiber diets that promote satiety without adding excess calories. Consider specially formulated weight management dog foods that provide balanced nutrition while helping to reduce body fat. Incorporating fresh vegetables, like carrots or green beans, can add bulk to meals without significant calories. Always ensure the main diet is nutritionally complete. Avoid high-fat treats; instead, opt for healthy alternatives or small portions of their regular food. Consult your veterinarian for personalized dietary recommendations and portion sizes tailored to your dog’s specific health needs and weight loss goals.

What kind of exercise is appropriate for an overweight dog?

Appropriate exercise for an overweight dog includes low-impact activities that gradually increase in intensity as the dog becomes fitter. Start with short, gentle walks and gradually lengthen the duration and pace. Swimming is an excellent low-impact exercise that minimizes strain on the joints while effectively burning calories. Play sessions that encourage movement, like fetch or tug-of-war, can also be beneficial. It’s important to tailor exercise to the dog’s current health, breed, and age. Always consult your veterinarian before starting an exercise regimen to ensure it’s safe for your pet.

Are there any underlying medical conditions that could be contributing to your dog’s weight gain?

Yes, several underlying medical conditions can contribute to weight gain in dogs, including hypothyroidism, which reduces the metabolism, and Cushing’s disease, which affects cortisol levels and can lead to increased appetite and weight gain. Insulinoma, a rare insulin-secreting tumor, can also cause weight gain. It’s crucial to have your dog evaluated by a veterinarian to rule out these and other medical conditions if you notice unexplained weight gain, as proper diagnosis and treatment are essential for your dog’s health and well-being.

Do you have questions about your dog’s diet or care? Contact us, your local Lasalle County, IL animal clinic, today!

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