Canine Obesity and How to Avoid It

So your dog is overweight. No big deal, right?


Obesity is a common problem in pets in Australia, and dogs are no exception. In many cases, it’s a direct result of overfeeding – and it has definite and specific health and wellbeing ramifications for your pet.

In the USA, pet obesity is considered the biggest health threat that pets face, and slender dogs are expected to live on average two years longer than their only slightly overweight counterparts. It’s an issue we need to address in Australia too for the sake of our beloved furry family members.

Is My Dog Overweight?

Your vet is the best source for a definitive answer on this, and different breeds have their own ideal weight ranges. Mixed breed dogs will likely have an ideal weight that is a middle ground between those for each contributing breed.

In a dog that is of a healthy weight, you will:

  • Easily feel his ribs
  • See a tucked abdomen with no stomach sag
  • Be able to see his waist definition from above

An overweight dog will have a sagging abdomen and it will be easy to grab a handful of fat. His back will be flat and broad, and there will be no waist definition. It will be difficult or impossible to feel his ribs.

Causes of Canine Obesity

While there are some endocrine issues (such as hypothyroidism) or other medical issues that can contribute to weight gain in your dog, the vast majority of cases of obesity and being even slightly overweight are directly related to feeding.

These include:

  • Overfeeding
  • Choosing poor-quality pet food
  • Lack of exercise
  • Too many treats
  • The wrong type of human-food treats
  • Genetics

Breed Specific Obesity

Some dog breeds are naturally more susceptible to weight gain than others. According to Modern Dog magazine, up to seventy percent of canine obesity can be traced at least in part to the dog’s breed.

 Those dogs most at risk include:

  • Basset Hound
  • Beagle
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Dachshund
  • English Bulldog
  • Golden Retriever
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Newfoundland
  • Pug
  • Rottweiler

Risks of Canine Obesity

A fat dog is not a healthy dog – which means that he is neither a happy dog (no matter how much he begs for treats).

Obesity in dogs (and even just being a little overweight on an ongoing basis) can cause a myriad of other dangerous health problems:

  • Diabetes
  • Pancreatitis
  • Spinal Disc Disease
  • Heart Disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Cancer
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Ruptured Cruciate Ligaments in the Knees

How to Avoid Canine Obesity

Get your vet to check your dog’s weight and condition. Blood tests may be necessary to rule out medical issues. Be honest with your vet about your dog’s patterns for eating, sleeping, exercise, and general behaviour.

  • Improve your dog’s diet and increase exercises such as dog walking and general play.
  • Make dietary changes gradually, so as not to cause shock to your dog’s system.
  • Your vet can recommend the right foods and a feeding schedule.
  •  Ideal dog foods will have at least 25% protein component.
  • Feed lean meats, green vegetables, and low-fat dairy.
  • Avoid high-fat meats including pork, lamb, and high-fat-content beef
  • Portion control is key!
  • Stop giving table snacks and treats! Reward your dog with non-food incentives.

Create a feeding routine and make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise. Just remember to avoid the hottest parts of the day and offer plenty of water to drink.

And remember, a healthy dog is a happy dog!

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