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Why Is My Dog Gaining Weight?

Why Is My Dog Gaining Weight?

Why is my dog gaining weight?

Weight gain is one of the most common health issues pets face and can also be one of the most complex. Overeating, not exercising enough, metabolism changes, and underlying illnesses can cause dogs to gain weight.

Although certain breeds are somewhat predisposed to weight gain, any dog can become overweight and even obese without adequate weight management.

Illnesses commonly cause rapid (rather than gradual) weight gain. If it seems like your dog has gained weight overnight, visit your vet to rule out conditions such as organ enlargement, ascites and thyroid disease.

Let's take a closer look at what causes dogs to gain weight, how weight gain is typically managed and treated, and what you can do to prevent your woofer from packing on the pounds in the future.

What causes dogs to gain weight?

Weight gain in dogs often happens for the same reasons it does in people. Although disorders and diseases may trigger weight gain in some dogs, most animals gain weight due to poor diet, overeating, or a lack of exercise. Some of the possible causes of weight gain can include:

Cushing's disease  

Dogs with Cushing's disease have hormonal imbalances due to overactive pituitary or adrenal glands. If you notice your dog is developing a rounded abdomen, is panting and eating more, your vet may need to evaluate their hormone levels. 

Genetic predisposition        

Although any dog can become obese, certain breeds are at higher risk, like Labrador Retrievers, Dachshunds, Beagles, and Cocker Spaniels. Pet parents of obesity-prone breeds should carefully monitor their pup's weight, diet, and exercise level to prevent weight gain.

Overeating and lack of exercise

Skipping walks and going overboard on the kibble can cause a dog's waistline to expand, especially when they both occur at the same time. This particular cause of weight gain is easier to prevent than reverse. 

Some dogs require more exercise than others due to differences in metabolism caused by genetics, age, medications, and medical history. 


Some medications (like phenobarbital and glucocorticoids) can cause woofers to pack on the pounds. Inform your veterinarian if your pet suddenly begins to pick up weight after starting a new drug. The vet may need to change the medication or lower the dosage. 


If your female dog happens to be unsterilized, weight gain could be a result of an unplanned pregnancy. If Lady has recently gone through a heat cycle or had contact with intact males, you may want to schedule an examination.   


Dogs with high stress and anxiety levels sometimes soothe themselves by eating and often consume more calories than they burn. Stress also increases cortisol levels, and when levels remain high for long periods, it can cause muscle loss and slow their metabolism. 

Thyroid disease           

Hypothyroidism is a common contributor to weight gain in canines. Schedule a vet appointment if your dog's weight gain is accompanied by lethargy, a dull coat, or oily, greasy skin. The vet will probably want to run a complete blood count and biochemical profile to help detect any underlying conditions.

So when should you be worried about your dog's weight?

What to do if your dog is gaining weight

What should you do if your dog is gaining weight? No matter what you suspect to be the cause, the first step is to consult a veterinarian. A vet can perform an exam and run tests to rule out underlying conditions and determine the root cause (and the correct treatment plan).

Treatment for overweight and obese dogs will vary depending on the cause. If your pet has recently started taking new medications, these drugs may need to be changed or adjusted.

If an underlying disease is causing your dog to gain weight, your vet will create a treatment plan to address that condition. Disorders such as thyroid disease and Cushing's disease may require lifelong medication to manage.

Stress can often be controlled through additional exercise, routine changes, and positive reinforcement training. However, vets may recommend anti-anxiety medications for severe cases.

Once any underlying conditions have been addressed, you'll need to work with a professional to modify your pet's diet and exercise routine. Your veterinarian can assist you in designing an effective diet and exercise regimen for your woofer's needs.

How to prevent weight gain in dogs

Providing your pooch with the correct amount of food for their individual metabolism and activity levels will go a long way in preventing weight gain. This includes reevaluating the animal's daily diet and exercise routine to compensate for factors like advancing age, neutering or spaying, and other factors that can influence changes in metabolism.  

Regular veterinary screenings can also help catch imbalances in hormones before they become problematic. If these disorders are treated promptly, it can help prevent excess weight gain. 

Cost of weight gain in dogs

The cost of treating weight gain in dogs depends on whether underlying conditions are contributing to the weight gain (and what those conditions are).

The general cost for treating obesity averages around $220, whereas treatment for diseases such as Cushing's disorder typically runs in the $2,000‚Äď$3,000 range.¬†

Many of these disorders also incur monthly prescription costs on top of the initial treatment fees.

If your dog is at risk of weight gain due to a medical condition or genetic predisposition, check out our pet insurance comparison tool. See how insurance plans from leading insurers stack up so you can choose the right policy for your pet!

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Why Is My Dog Gaining Weight? Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals


Irish Doodle



Two Years


1 found this helpful


1 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Dry Patches
I have 2 female Irish Doodle dogs from the same litter. They had the same coat and skin, until one (Chloe)started to lose hair in very large patches and her skin began to get incredibly dry. Chloe lives with my mom and has pretty severe separation anxiety and anxiety more generally. We aren’t sure why her coat/skin is so dry or why her hair hasn’t fully grown back. Do you think that if we incorporated fresher, human grade foods that her coat might improve? She takes trazadone for her anxiety and our vet put her on a medical grade kibble with 3 pumps of added fish oil every day, no improvement.

Oct. 20, 2020

Answered by Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

1 Recommendations

Hi there, you are through to Dr Linda. Fur loss is not typical and usually indicates an underlying issue. At her age, we would consider: Underlying skin disease (this would usually mean the skin is red and/or scabby and the dog would be itchy). Seasonal Alopecia (dogs lose fur, mainly on their flank and this tends to happen in Winter time). Alopecia x (though she is not the typical breed). A hormonal disorder such as hypothyroidism (though this would be rare at her age and we would expect other signs such as weight gain and lethargy). If these more common issues are ruled out, we may consider a skin biopsy to get a diagnosis. I doubt a diet change will have much effect as it sounds as if you are already addressing her dietary needs and providing skin and fur supplements. Feeding human grade, fresh dog food (assuming it is a prepepared, balanced diet) certainly won't do any harm but is unlikely to change things. Hopefully we get to the bottom of this soon!

Oct. 22, 2020

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