Is My Dog Overweight? Causes of Dog Obesity


It is a known fact: pet obesity has been on the rise for years. In January 2020, it was reported that a study on pet obesity found some interesting but worrying findings. A recent new study revealed that the Covid-19 pandemic is fuelling the problem of obesity among pets.

We will look at those findings, and what causes dogs in particular to become overweight. Understanding the root causes of the problem will help dog owners to tackle and remedy their dog’s weighty issue. 

What are the Causes of Dog Obesity

                       Photo credit: Светлана Бердник from Pixabay                                         

Why do dogs get overweight?

There are various reasons that can turn man’s best friend into a prime candidate for weight gain. Sometimes, the situation spirals out of control, resulting in the pet dog becoming too heavy, or even obese.

Here are some of those reasons, each one worthy of a dog owner’s interest or concern.

Pet ‘pilferers’ 

The study on pet obesity found that nearly half of the 500 pet owners (44%) surveyed have caught their pets stealing another cohabiting pet’s food. 

Other major areas of concern discovered among the 500 dog and cat owners included:  

  • Overfeeding their pet (three in four owners or 72%)
  • Never using weighing scales to ensure correct food portions (more than half of them or 64%)
  • Not knowing the correct recommended daily intake for their pet’s breed or size (over a third of them or 35%)
  • Only exercising their pet a few times a week (15% of them)  

Too much food, not enough exercise

Let’s face it; dog owners who adore their dogs have a tendency to spoil them with tasty food and treats — at the expense of the canine’s waistline and health. Without self-restraint on the part of the owner, and pet, this could easily lead to overeating for the dog. 

Dogs generally need some form of daily physical activity. When they are fed more food than their bodies need, they require extra exercise to burn off the excess calories. Overfeeding on a daily basis just heightens the risk placed on these dogs’ health.

too much food for your dog

Photo credit: Gentle Dog Trainers

So, imagine what overfeeding and a lack of exercise would do to the dogs. It is no wonder then that they balloon to an unhealthy weight, taking on a grotesque shape.

In the case of the current pandemic, being confined indoors causes boredom and bingeing — for both pet owners and pets. Little to no access to proper exercise further aggravates this situation.

The findings of the recent new study substantiate this concern:

  • More than 71% of pet professionals state the pandemic has impacted how pets eat
  • Thirty-three per cent of pet owners with an overweight pet say their pet became overweight during the pandemic
  • More than half or 53% of pet owners admit they have been giving their pets treats for no reason during the pandemic

The veterinarians who participated in this study thus recommend that pet owners give fewer table scraps (91%), give fewer treats (92%) and ensure their pets get more exercise (91%).

The crux of the matter remains: pet owners have full control over how often and what they feed their pets.

Thus, for dog owners, they need to self-reflect and stop bad feeding habits (free-feeding, giving random table scraps, showering their dogs with doggy treats). They are also totally responsible for the amount of exercise their dogs get.

Inappropriate food and diet

The quality of food that a dog eats is as important as the quantity of food. Low-quality foods — typically, commercial dog food that lacks sufficient nutrients — are a detriment to maintaining a dog’s ideal weight.

Unhealthy store-bought snacks, especially those high in carbohydrates, fat, sugar, colouring and preservatives, are another culprit for weight gain and poor health in dogs.

Nevertheless, dog owners can combat these consequences in their dogs with a nutritional and balanced diet, weight loss and weight management. Learn more here at Dog Weight Loss - Diet Plan for Overweight Dogs.

Slower metabolism

An overweight dog tends to have a slow metabolism. This prevents its body from burning off calories fast.

Therefore, a combination of feeding the dog too much, even over a short period of time, and a sluggish metabolism will have an undesirable impact on its weight.

One way of addressing this is to increase the dog’s physical activity, in view of giving its metabolism a boost. Alternatively, you can give the dog supplements that will help to support its metabolism — try Petcubes Wholistic Coconut Oil supplement for a healthy metabolism, coat, and immune and cardiovascular systems.  


Dog owners’ behaviour 

Not surprisingly, pet owners’ behaviour contributes to obesity in pets, dogs and cats alike. A study found that helping to change an owner’s behaviour in relation to his or her overweight dog can subsequently improve the condition of the dog.     

Hence, targeting and improving the behaviour of dog owners with overweight dogs has the potential to significantly improve the outcome of these obese dogs, the study concluded.

Genetics or breed

Dogs of any breed can be overweight or obese. Research, however, shows that certain breeds are more prone to being overweight than others. This includes Basset Hounds, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Golden Retrievers and Labradors, among others.

This discovery suggests that the breeds’ genetics may play a role in weight gain.  

How do I know if my dog is overweight?

Here are some noticeable signs of a dog that is struggling with too much weight than is healthy:

  • The dog’s waist is not distinct and its body is broad when seen from an overhead view.
  • Its stomach is bulging and there is no abdominal tuck from a side view.
  • Its ribs, spine and hip bone cannot be felt while running your hand over its body.
  • Its breathing is laboured and physical activity or playtime no longer interests the dog.
  • Moving around is difficult for the dog.

For an overview of these signs, go to Dangers of an Overweight Dog for a look at the dog weight chart.

Final words

As the adage goes, prevention is better than cure. It is better to prevent weight gain and obesity in dogs than to cure it.

Pet dogs need to eat right from the very start of life and keep to a weight that is ideal for their breed or size — this is healthier and safer, not to mention kinder, for the dogs in the long run.

The onus is on dog owners to ensure that their canine companions live a happy, healthy and quality life. Pet obesity is not humane.