Obesity in dogs – causes and treatment
How to spot signs of obesity in your dog and how to help it lose weight.
Obesity in dogs is a global problem.
Being overweight can cause significant consequences for a dog, such as pain and illnesses. It can affect organs, including the heart, kidneys, lungs, and liver. Being overweight also leads to extra strain on the skeleton and joints.
How do you know if your dog is overweight?
Most dog owners know approximately how heavy their dog should be according to the breed standard. However, there are large individual differences between dogs, even in the same breed, so there are no definitive answers to how much a dog should weigh. The standard breed weight is more like a pointer rather than a definition.
So if your dog doesn't weigh exactly what the breed standard suggests, then you will most likely still be fine, as long as it's not too far off. However, if you are in doubt, you can look for certain signs of obesity or malnutrition by checking your dogs' aesthetical physique.
Check its ribs
In a healthy dog, you should be able to feel the ribs with your fingers. If you cannot feel the ribs, this is a strong indication that the dog is overweight.
Look at your dog
It may sound banal, but you can often see obesity with the naked eye. For example, if the abdomen "hangs" further down than the chest, it may indicate obesity.
How is the fitness level?
With too many kilos on the body, all physical activities can become more strenuous. If your dog gets tired quickly and breathes heavily even with light exercise, this may be a sign of obesity.
What causes obesity in dogs?
Too much weight in dogs often has a simple explanation: overeating. However, most dogs love food and rarely say no to what they get offered. Therefore, it is the owner's responsibility to ensure that the dog ingests the right amount of food to maintain a healthy weight.
But being overweight is not always just about food. Physical activity is also an important variable that affects weight. So make sure to give the dog sufficient exercise, play, and walks.
Other causes of obesity in dogs
Castration or sterilization affects the dog's metabolism. It can therefore be more demanding to avoid becoming overweight if the dog has been neutered or sterilized. Other hormonal disorders can also help the dog gain weight faster.
Some breeds are also more prone to obesity than others. In our breed overview, we have stated which dogs this applies to.
Examples of some breeds that easily gain weight:
Golden Retriever, Dachshund, Basset Hound, Cocker Spaniel, and Beagle.
If you own one of these dog breeds, you should pay extra attention to the dog's weight.
If you are overweight yourself, it is advisable to weigh your dog too, as they tend to adapt to their owners' lifestyle. Many pet stores, and most dog stores, allow you to weigh your dog for free.
It may also make sense to talk to a veterinarian who can assess whether the dog is actually overweight or not and give advice on further measures.
Often a veterinarian will recommend reducing the calorie intake and increasing the dog's activity level. However, be prepared for it to take a long time before your dog reaches a healthy weight again– especially if the weight gaining has gone on for a long time.
But nothing is impossible, and with good help and patience, the vast majority of overweight dogs can get better health and an increased quality of life by losing a few kilos.