Critter Culture
Is It Fluff or Fat? Obesity in Dogs

Is It Fluff or Fat? Obesity in Dogs

Critter Culture Staff



According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, over 50% of dogs are overweight or obese, and many pet owners don't realize it. Only about half of pet owners correctly identify their dog's weight, meaning it's possible your furry friend is actually a little (or a lot) heavier than they should be. Obesity can cause a lot of health issues for dogs, and some dog breeds are more likely to be obese than others.


What causes obesity in dogs?

Glad labrador eating food on floor YakobchukOlena / Getty Images

In most cases, the cause of obesity in dogs is overfeeding them, often in the form of treats and table scraps or allowing free grazing at their food dish all day. Obesity can also be a sign a dog isn't getting the right amount of exercise. In some cases, it can be caused by a medical condition, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing's disease, so be sure to check in with your pup's vet if you suspect they've put on too much weight.


Complications of obesity in dogs

Big white dog sitting on the veterinarian scales RossHelen / Getty Images

Obesity can be dangerous in dogs, with the American Kennel Club reporting that dogs with healthy weights live 2.5 years longer than those that are overweight. All sorts of issues can arise from your pup carrying around a few extra pounds. They become at higher risk for arthritis, kidney issues, diabetes, high blood pressure, and many more conditions related to mobility. These medical issues can affect you, their owner, too—they can increase healthcare and prescription costs by up to $2,000 per year.


How to tell if your dog's obese

Little fat pug sitting on sidewalk in summer park o_sa / Getty Images

Many people assume that their dogs are a healthy weight even when they're not. The easiest way to tell if your dog is obese is by comparing their body shape to a body condition scoring chart. It should be possible to feel your dog's ribs when you pet their sides, and if you look at them from above, you should see where their waist tucks in. If you can feel fat over the ribs or identify visible fat near the base of your dog's tail, they may be overweight or obese.


Helping your dog shed those excess pounds

Man Jogging With His Dog. vgajic / Getty Images

Part of helping your furry friend reach a healthy weight is to adjust their feedings. A vet can help you choose the right diet for your dog that will meet their nutritional needs while reducing calorie consumption. Also, keep in mind that treats and scraps count toward overall calorie consumption, so those have to change too. You should also incorporate more exercise and activity to help your dog burn more calories. Try adding in an extra 15-minute walk or spending a little longer in the backyard tossing a ball.


Are certain breeds more likely to be overweight?

Dog being teased with a biscuit ClarkandCompany / Getty Images

Generally, obese dogs are older, female, and spayed, but in some cases, the breed contributes to the condition as well. Some dogs have more food-driven personalities, while others may be at an increased risk due to being less active or not meeting recommendations for exercise based on breed. Others still may be genetically predisposed to obesity.


Labrador retrievers

Eating dog fury123 / Getty Images

While labs are among the most popular dogs, it's not always just floof making them look so soft and huggable. They're more prone to obesity than many other breeds, in part due to being food motivated. This motivation comes from a deleted gene. These furbabies will devour just about any food they can get their paws on. However, that deleted gene also means that they don't know when they're full. Pair that with most labs not getting enough exercise (they need two hours a day!), and weight can become an issue. If you let your lab free graze all day long, they'll quickly pack on the pounds.


Cocker spaniels

The dog lies on the floor scales at home. O_Lypa / Getty Images

Like Labradors, cocker spaniels were bred to be food motivated so they could be trained easily. As working dogs, they're also generally pretty hungry, but in most cases, these days, cocker spaniels enjoy the pampered pooch life in homes instead of out on the fields. Because their modern activity level doesn't match their bred-in voracious appetite in most cases, they're particularly prone to weight issues.


Golden retrievers

Dog Bone TriggerPhoto / Getty Images

Golden retrievers are closely related to labs, which unfortunately means these good boys and girls also carry the same genetic deletions that make them prone to being heavier. Their highly food-motivated behavior and eyes that are bigger than their stomachs make them overeat whenever they get the chance, and, because of their long fur, it can be difficult to tell whether they've gained a few pounds or they're just fluffy.



Fat Beagle Dejchai Kulawong / Getty Images

Beagles tend to devour anything they can get their cute little paws on, seeming as if they're always running on empty. Plus, they're quick to snag any snacks they can if they think they can get away with it. If you're not careful, your beagle can eat more than you thought. Like many other working dog breeds, they're active and food motivated but frequently don't get the bare minimum of 1.5 hours of exercise daily to stay in optimal health. This boosts their chances of obesity.



Pug Dog on street themorningglory / Getty Images

Pugs are the most common breed impacted by obesity, with a study by the Royal Veterinary College reporting that over 60% of pugs have weight issues. This creates a bit of a problem—most of the pugs you see are overweight, so it's easy to assume that that's just what they're supposed to look like. In part, their roly-poly appearance comes from the breed's characteristic stockiness. However, they're also brachycephalic, meaning flat-faced. This can make breathing difficult, causing the dogs to prefer a lazier lifestyle that increases their chances of becoming obese.


What Is Cushing's Disease in Dogs?

What Is Cushing's Disease in Dogs?

Get your paws on the latest animal news and information