Obese in Dogs

Why is my dog obese?

What is Obese?

When a dog is obese, he is remarkably over his weight “limit”. There are many breeds of dogs of many different sizes and structure. It is safe to say that larger breeds are going to weigh more than smaller breeds; the actual weight of the dog is not a characteristic of if he is overweight. If your dog weighs too much, this is according to his breed and the typical, or normal, weight of his breed-type. Dogs are considered obese if they have an excess of body fat and weight more than twenty percent of their ideal weight for their breed-type.

Only your veterinarian can determine if your dog is obese. Fortunately, there are ways to treat obesity in dogs with the help and advice of your medical professional. Like humans, it will be challenging to monitor the eating and the consumption of too many calories, but with will power and distractions for the dog, it can be done. 

There are several different reasons for obesity in dogs. Reasons can include:

  • High daily calorie intake
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Breed and predisposition
  • Age
  • Neutering
  • Medications
  • Adipokines

Why Obese Occurs in Dogs

If your dog is overweight or obese, the condition can lead to various health issues. Having a large amount of excess fat is hard on the body. Obese dogs have an increased risk of developing cancers, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, arthritis, back problems, and other health problems. Obesity can occur because:

High Daily Calorie Intake

If your dog is eating too many calories a day, he will continue to gain weight. It is very important to control your dog’s intake of food, including treats. Also, people food, such as “table scraps” is unhealthy for your dog, so thoroughly monitor what he is given.

Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s disease is when an abnormal amount of cortisol is produced by the dog’s body. It can affect a dog’s inability to lose any weight or burn calories. It can also affect his ability to fight infections or keep proper blood sugar levels.


Hypothyroidism is a condition in which a dog’s body produces inadequate levels of thyroid hormone. This hormone controls metabolism and energy. If the metabolic rate is affected, your dog may gain too much weight.

Breed and Predisposition

Some dog breeds are predisposed to being extra heavy. If you have a dog that is known to gain weight easily, talk to your veterinarian about a diet that is ideal for him. He can recommend several types of diets, including prescription food, to help your dog maintain a healthy weight.


As dogs get older, they may put on extra pounds. The metabolism may slow down, and your dog may not be as active as he once was. Cutting back on the calories or finding a prescription diet for geriatric dogs may help him keep his weight down to avoid health problems.


When a dog is neutered or spayed, a dog’s metabolism will change. They will need fewer calories to sustain them, unlike intact dogs. Your dog may also become calmer, more sedentary and less likely to “roam” than they would if they were intact. 


Glucocorticoids can cause your dog to gain weight, as they can have an impact on their appetite (just like humans). These medications, such as prednisone or dexamethasone, can stimulate the appetite and influence the metabolism of the dog.


If your dog has a build-up of adipokines, a type of peptide in their system, he will have an increase in appetite and may become obese. When these peptides accumulate in various tissues and other parts of the body systems, your dog will experience hormonal and metabolic changes.

What to do if your Dog is Obese

If you feel your dog looks a little overweight, make an appointment with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will weigh him and be sure to let you know if your dog is within the normal weight limits, overweight, or obese. Your veterinarian will discuss several different things with you about your dog, and will have several questions for you that relate to his weight gain or weight when you brought him into your family. He will most definitely consider the breed and health history as well.

Information your veterinarian will want to know from you may include his diet and when you feed him, how many treats he gets per day, if he eats “people” food, and how much exercise he gets. If he is an “outdoor” dog, he may be roaming from house to house getting food, and your veterinarian will need to know of this possibility.

Your veterinarian will run basic laboratory tests, such as blood work, a urinalysis, and a biochemistry profile. These tests will check for underlying health conditions which may be the cause for your dog’s obesity.

Prevention of Obese

In order to prevent your dog from being obese, there are some actions you can take as a responsible dog owner. Your dog can only eat what you allow him to eat, so be sure to monitor his food intake. Prevent situations in which he can dig through the trash or “counter surf” when you are not home. Be sure you are feeding him properly, and if you are unsure of how much to feed your dog, just ask your veterinarian. Limit his treats, or do not give treats at all to keep his weight down.

Your veterinarian will give you suggestions to help your dog’s obesity. It will be very important to follow his instructions on how to properly care for your dog and to encourage his weight loss, perhaps with a prescription diet and a modification of exercise habits. If your pet is on a medication that is causing him to gain weight, the veterinarian may choose to change the medication.

Cost of Obese

Treating your dog’s obesity will depend on the actual reason for the weight gain, whether it be due to a medical condition or a simple case of overeating. The cost for treating Cushing’s disease can be approximately $2000 while the expense for managing a thyroid condition can start at $1800.

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