Why Is My Dog Obese? Causes of Obesity in Dogs

Updated: February 23, 2019 at 3:36 pm, Author: Alice

Many people don’t think of animals as being obese, but just like humans, animals can become so overweight that it negatively impacts their health and even shortens their life span. Dogs, like all other animals, are also susceptible to obesity. In fact, according to, 25-30% of the canine population is obese, with 40-45% of dogs between the ages of 5 and 11 affected.


If you believe that your dog has become overweight or obese, look for the signs and symptoms, which can include lethargy, heavy breathing, waddling, difficulty moving, difficulty grooming him or herself, and, of course, weight gain. If you determine that weight gain is the cause of his recent change in demeanor, it is important that you take steps to combat it before it negatively impacts her health. Some serious health risks caused by excessive weight include:

  • Diabetes
  • Joint damage
  • Decreased liver function
  • Heat intolerance
  • Heart problems
  • Respiratory disease
  • Early death


Because underlying health conditions can cause excessive weight gain, it is important that you consult with a veterinarian to determine the cause of your pet’s obesity. Your vet will then guide you on what steps to should take to reduce your dog’s weight and get him back to living a healthy and full life.

Possible Causes of Your Pet’s Excessive Weight


bowl and collar on floorObesity, in general, is caused by consuming more calories than what a person or animal puts out. Because dogs are naturally active creatures, their obesity is as much your problem as it is theirs, and was likely caused by you (though unwittingly – don’t feel bad!). Factors that may have contributed to your dog’s obesity include feeding her table scraps, not exercising her enough, overfeeding her, allowing her to snack between meals, or feeding her a diet that is high in fats and energy.


Sometimes though, dogs may become obese through no fault of their owner. Heredity, hormonal abnormalities, breed, sex, and age also play a role in your dog’s overall health and weight. Some dogs just require a stricter diet and exercise regime to maintain a healthy physique, which is something that your vet can inform you of if that is the issue.


In general though, a dog’s obesity can be attributed to one of the following:


  • Surgery: While surgery itself does not cause obesity, after-treatment and after-affects can. For instance, if your dog was spayed or neutered, the decrease in production of sex hormones may lead to decreased energy expenditure and increased hunger, both of which definitely contribute to weight gain.
  • Medications: Medications—for humans and dogs—often cause all sorts of changes in the body. Some of those changes can lead to decreased satiety (increased hunger), which can lead to overeating.
    Glucocorticoids, especially, lead to abnormal fat deposition and weight gain.
  • Environment: A dog’s environment can negatively impact his weight, as some dog owners—while trying to “treat” their dog—feed them table scraps or even overfeed them. Dogs are not supposed to eat table scraps, as human food contains fats, calories, and sugars that dogs’ digestive tracts are not used to.
    Additionally, frequent and/or irregular feedings can also contribute to weight gain in dogs. Lack of exercise is another contributing factor, as is allowing your dog to be an “indoor only” pet.
  • Physiology: Breed and age can contribute to weight gain in dogs. Dogs over five years of age experience a voluntary decrease in activity and tend to burn fewer calories with each passing day. Some breeds, such as terrier breeds, spaniels, beagles, Labrador retrievers, and Dachshunds are especially susceptible to genetic predispositions such as weight gain.
  • Diseases: Some dogs are overweight because of underlying health conditions, including hypothyroidism, insulinoma, and hyperadrenocorticism, all of which contribute to weight gain.


Diagnosing Obesity in Your Dog


Diagnosing obesity is fairly simple, as more often than not, you simply have to look at your dog to tell that he or she is overweight. However, for many dogs, weight gain can be gradual, in which case, you may not notice it until it has become a real issue. Unfortunately, once it becomes an issue, it becomes more difficult to treat.


Though you should certainly take your pup to the vet if you suspect that she is obese, there are some simple techniques that you can use at home to determine if she is or isn’t. One of those ways is to use the body condition measuring system.


Body Condition Measuring System:

  • Underweight: A dog is underweight if you can see her ribs, spine, and/or pelvic bones.
  • Ideal Weight: A dog is at her ideal weight if she has an obvious waistline and a thin upper body when viewed from above, but you cannot see her ribs, spine, and/or pelvic bones.
  • Overweight: A dog is overweight if you cannot feel her ribs upon petting her, and there is no difference between the size of her upper body and the size of her waist when viewed from above.
  • Obese: A dog is considered obese when you cannot even feel her ribs after applying firm pressure. Her waistline is the same size or wider than the upper body when viewed from above, the back, or head-on.


If your pup meets the characteristics of overweight or obese, bring her into the vet right away to rule out any underlying health concerns. Your vet will also advise you on a proper weight management program for your dog’s particular age, size, and breed.


Combatting Obesity in Dogs


Just like with humans, combatting obesity simply requires a change in diet and exercise. Most veterinarians recommend reducing an overweight dog’s portions by as much as 25%. In addition to reducing your pup’s daily portions, gradually increase her exercise levels each day, until she is able to achieve the same level of exercise recommended for her breed, age, and size.


In addition to cutting back her food intake and increasing her daily activity, if you feed her table scraps, stop doing so. Make sure that if you give her treats, they are low in calories and preservatives; all natural treats are best.


Are Bully Sticks Apart of a Healthy Diet?


Many people are concerned about the health of bully sticks, especially after FOX NEWS HEALTH came out with a report about how they may pose health risks to your dog. It is true that many bully sticks contain unhealthy additives that contribute to weight gain. However, at The Bully Stick Shoppe, our bully sticks are made of nothing but natural ingredients, right here in the U.S.A. Our products are FDA approved, contain no additives, and no harmful bacteria. The treats offered at our online store are 100% natural and 100% healthy.


If you’re looking for a healthy treat for your pup—whether to reward her for all of her hard work or simply because you love her—our bully sticks are the answer. Get a treat that your dog will love and that will put your mind at ease—shop our selection online.


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