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The Health Risks of Obesity in Dogs

by Geoff Works |

According to the American Kennel Club, 56% of canines in the US are either overweight or obese, making the condition a major health crisis for dogs. Overlooking excess weight leads to serious health problems, so you should continually monitor your dog’s exercise and nutrition to ensure they stay in great shape. 

While it’s true that other underlying health or metabolic conditions like hypothyroidism can cause our pets to gain weight excessively, an imbalance between food intake and energy usage is the most common cause of obesity. If your dog eats more calories than it burns, it could lead to excessive weight gain and, eventually–obesity.

Veterinarians have observed this health issue in different breeds and sizes of dogs. Fortunately for pet owners, this condition is preventable. We will discuss the various health risks of obesity, what a healthy dog weight is, and how to prevent obesity in dogs in today’s blog.

Eight Health Risks of Obesity in Dogs

Canine obesity refers to a condition where your dog is carrying excessive fat in its body. Over time, it could lead to these eight health risks. 

Shorter Lifespan

A study from the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition found that the life expectancy of overweight dogs is nearly ten months shorter than if they were at their ideal weight due to the severe health risks of obesity. Other studies have also revealed that leaner dogs are less likely to develop chronic diseases like osteoarthritis.  

Respiratory Problems

Dogs that carry extra fat in their bodies are at high risk of developing respiratory problems like shortness of breath and sleep apnea. The excess weight in their chests makes it difficult for their lungs to expand, preventing them from taking deep breaths. This condition also makes it difficult for them to walk or run, leading to difficulty running and walking.  


High blood pressure or hypertension can be fatal for obese dogs. This condition makes their hearts work harder to pump oxygen-rich blood through their bodies, inevitably leading to congestive heart failure (CHF). 

CHF will reduce your pet’s stamina and induce symptoms like persistent coughing and difficulty breathing. If left untreated, CHF can be fatal to our canine companions.  


Diabetes is another major health problem common among overweight canines. As with obesity in humans, obesity in dogs significantly raises the risk of developing this disease, raising our pet’s insulin resistance and causing impaired glucose metabolism. 

Like us, our pet’s bodies need insulin to break down sugar. If it isn’t efficiently performing this function, it may indicate diabetes. And though there are several ways to manage this specific health condition, it’s incredibly challenging for dogs and could lead to other fatal illnesses. 

Liver Diseases

If your pet is obese, all its organs and systems in its body will have to work twice as hard to function correctly. The excess fat in their liver leads to organ malfunction, causing it to stop purifying the body and getting rid of toxins. Once this happens, your pet is at risk of several severe health conditions, some of which are difficult and expensive to treat.


Joint problems are common among obese dogs since their extra weight places excessive stress on their joints, leaving them painfully swollen. While some joint supplements and anti-inflammatory medications can help your dog manage their discomfort, the most effective way to reduce the pain of osteoarthritis and prevent it from developing in the first place is proper weight management. 

Increased cancer risks

One of the most severe health risks of obesity in dogs is cancer. Obesity increases the likelihood of your pet developing certain cancers, especially for breeds already prone to developing tumors and malignant cysts.

How to tell if your dog is obese

There are several ways to determine if your dog is overweight. Besides looking up body condition charts from legitimate sources online, you can also conduct physical examinations at home. When you hold your dog, if it isn’t overweight, you should be able to quickly feel its rib bones, spine, and pelvic bones. 

Another great way to visually check if your dog is obese is to look at its body shape. Suppose you examine your dog from above. Are they oval-shaped or not? If they are, they are likely overweight. On the other hand, if your canine has a defined waist toward its rear and has a straight build down the sides, they’re probably at an ideal weight for dogs. 

Lastly, regular visits to a veterinarian will help you determine if your pup is overweight or not. Different breeds have different recommended healthy dog weights. And the only way you can assess your pet’s ideal weight is to consult a professional. 

Your dog’s vet will consider other factors, like age, current weight, and overall health condition, when determining their healthy dog weight. They will also help you find the best course of action for your pet’s weight management.

How to prevent obesity in dogs

Once you determine whether your dog is overweight, you and your veterinarian will have to work on developing a dog weight loss plan. Typically, you’ll need to target two main things to get the ideal weight for dogs: calorie and exercise intake. 

Besides reducing the number of calories your dog consumes daily, you must also increase the time they spend exercising. The primary cause of obesity is an imbalance between the two factors we mentioned. We recommend offsetting either a lack of exercise or excess food consumption for an effective weight loss program. 

If you don’t regularly take your dog for a walk, you’ll need to ease them into it to prevent traumatic injuries. Begin by going on ten to fifteen-minute walks each day and gradually increase your walking time and its briskness daily. You can reward your pet by praising them and offering them toys they can play with during your walks. 

With the help of your veterinarian, you’ll be able to develop an effective portion control and exercise plan for your dog. They will determine the proper calorie intake your dog should follow and the kinds of food they must consume daily. 

Maintaining a healthy dog weight leads to a healthy life

By learning how to prevent obesity in dogs, you’re providing your pet with a quality life they can enjoy for years to come. You can guarantee your dog’s happiness and health by working hard with your veterinarian to develop the right weight management plan for their needs.

Want to learn more about how to maintain the ideal weight for your dogs? Visit our blog here.

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