Care & Husbandry: The Dangers of Dog Obesity

Obesity is a growing concern not only for humans but also for our canine companions. Let’s shed light on the critical health issues associated with pet obesity, affecting approximately 60% of dogs and cats in the U.S. This guide aims to emphasize the severity of the problem and offer insights into the causes, risks, and solutions.

Why Obesity is Detrimental

1. Arthritis

Extra weight places undue stress on joints, leading to joint degeneration and increased pain. Weight management can alleviate the need for arthritis medications.

2. Respiratory Compromise

Excess fat around the chest restricts breathing, making it challenging for pets to take deep breaths. Weight loss helps manage conditions like tracheal collapse and chronic cough.

3. Diabetes Mellitus

Obesity leads to insulin resistance, significantly increasing the risk of diabetes mellitus, especially in cats.

4. Hepatic Lipidosis

Overweight cats, when off food due to illness or stress, may develop hepatic lipidosis, a life-threatening condition where the liver fails due to the excessive mobilization of body fat.

5. Reduced Life Span

Studies indicate that maintaining a lean body can extend a dog's life by up to 2.5 years compared to overweight counterparts.

6. Unwillingness to Accept Therapeutic Diets

Obese pets may resist transitioning to therapeutic diets, hindering treatment for various health conditions.

7. Increased Surgical/Anesthetic Risk

Obesity complicates anesthesia, making drug dosing less accurate and impeding proper air exchange during surgery.

How Pets Become Overweight

  1. Misjudging Food Amounts: Cups used for measuring food may vary. Accurate measurements are crucial.
  2. Genetics: Breeds like Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and others may be genetically predisposed to obesity.
  3. Children at Home: Kids may inadvertently provide extra treats, contributing to weight gain.
  4. Low Metabolism: Some pets burn calories inefficiently due to genetics or underlying health issues.
  5. Underestimating Treat Calories: High-calorie treats can add up quickly, leading to weight gain.
  6. Neutering: Sterilization may slow metabolism and increase fat storage, necessitating dietary adjustments.

Body Condition Evaluation

Use body condition scoring to assess your pet's weight. Feel for a slight padding over the ribs, allowing you to feel them, with a small tuck in the belly.

What Can Be Done: Diet and Exercise

  1. Control Diet: Feed pets separately to regulate food intake.
  2. Meal Feeding: Avoid free-feeding and feed pets in meals to control snacking.
  3. Regular Weigh-Ins: Commit to regular veterinary weigh-ins to track progress.
  4. Interactive Toys: Provide toys for mental stimulation and exercise, especially when you're not at home.
  5. Health Check: Rule out health issues that might contribute to obesity.


Explore the emerging field of nutrigenomics, tailoring diets based on individual genetic compositions for optimal weight management.

Do-It-Yourself Approach

While therapeutic diets are effective, a do-it-yourself approach involving cutting treats, increasing exercise, and modifying human behavior can yield positive results.

Remember, addressing pet obesity requires dedication and a holistic approach involving proper nutrition, regular exercise, and vigilant monitoring. Consult your veterinarian for personalized guidance based on your pet's specific needs and conditions.

Don't have a vet in your area yet? We can help you find a local veterinarian.

If you have more questions, the GeniusVets Telehealth platform will give you unlimited access to text and/or video calls with board-certified veterinarians! To learn more click here.