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Diet for Overweight Dogs: Weight Loss & Management Tips

Nicole Cosgrove

July 2, 2021

When people take their dogs to the veterinarian, the last thing they expect to hear is that their pets are overweight or obese. Many people will flat out deny it and say that they’re just “fluffy,” but the reality of weight issues in dogs is far from adorable or “just a little fluffy.” Obesity is a serious issue that few pet parents are willing to address, which is unfortunate since it can lead to much worse health problems down the road. If your vet suspects your dog is overweight or obese, it’s time to take control of your dog’s diet and lifestyle before things progress to dire circumstances.

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 How Do I Know My Dog is Overweight or Obese?

three american bulldogs on grass
Image credit: B Wills, Pixabay

While a vet should tell you if your dog is overweight or obese, there are some telltale signs that will tell you. The most obvious sign of an overweight or obese dog is a lack of a waist (between hips and ribcage), giving them a rounded, barrel-like look. If your dog is more than a few pounds overweight, the hips and ribcage will be completely invisible.

The second sign is inactivity, especially in breeds that enjoy exercising and have naturally higher levels of activity. Dogs are playful by nature, even breeds that don’t necessarily love running around all day. If your dog is too lazy for exercise or struggles to make it down the street without being exhausted, your dog might have a weight problem.

Another sign of overweight problems or obesity is diet. How much are you feeding your dog? Does he or she get a lot of people food or dog treats? These are a few of many questions you’ll have to answer if you suspect your dog is overweight. Many dog owners don’t know that they’re most likely overfeeding their dogs, so it’s crucial to feed your dog a diet that reflects his or her body size and activity levels.

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 What is the difference between Overweight and Obese?

obese dog_Ihtar, Pixabay
Image Credit: Ihtar, Pixabay

When first learning about dog weight and diet, the terms ‘overweight’ and ‘obese’ are often thrown around. While one is worse than the other, they’re both serious issues that are far too common. Overweight is a term that simply means over the limit of what your dog should weigh, which is quite common amongst many dogs. It’s easy to fix with a stricter diet and more exercise, which your vet can guide you through.

Obesity, however, beyond overweight and means your dog’s body fat index is much higher than normal. It’s a serious condition that needs medication intervention with your vet, a strict diet, and daily exercise to help get rid of the weight as quickly as possible without risking your dog’s health. If your dog is truly obese, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible for help. 

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Why is Obesity and Being Overweight Bad for Dogs?

dog bloated stomach_Piqsels
Image Credit: Piqsels

Weight problems and obesity are both terrible for dogs, leading to multiple health issues that are sometimes irreversible. Here are some common conditions that overweight and obese dogs may run into:

  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Liver Failure
  • Elbow/Patella Luxation
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Spine/Neck issues
  • Mobility Issues

If you think your dog is already heading for these issues, please call your vet as soon as possible. The sooner your dog is on a healthier path, the better your dog’s life will be later on.

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Are Certain Breeds Prone to Weight Problems and Obesity?

English Bulldogs_No-longer-here, Pixabay
Image Credit: No-longer-here, Pixabay

Yes, there are some dog breeds that are more prone to obesity. However, small dogs, in general, are more likely to be overweight. Here are some breeds that may fall prey to weight gain:

  • Chihuahua
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • English Mastiff
  • Bullmastiff
  • Rottweiler
  • Boxer
  • Corgi
  • Pug
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Golden Retriever
  • French Bulldog
  • Boston Terrier
  • English Bulldog
  • Staffordshire Terrier
  • Bull Terrier
  • Pekingese
  • Maltese
  • Bichon
  • Great Dane

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How Can I Help My Dog Lose Weight?

 1. Call your Vet

dog at vet_ESB Professional, Shutterstock
Image Credit: ESB Professional, Shutterstock

Talk to your vet for help with diet and weight management tips. There are some things we can suggest, but completely changing a dog’s diet and lifestyle should always be done with a vet’s approval and supervision. Every dog has its own nutritional needs, which is why getting professional advice is crucial.


2. Check your Dog’s Food

dog food_Jaja Fekiacova_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Jaja Fekiacova, Shutterstock

Check your dog’s food label and see how much it calls for, then compare it to how much you’re feeding. Different dog food brands have different caloric amounts per cup, so you might be feeding more than needed. Also, some brands of dog food tend to call for more food than necessary, so you may have to cut down on the kibble (with vet approval). Another thing to check for is low-quality filler ingredients, which are just empty calories that do nothing for your dog’s health.

3. More exercise

dog and trainer_Nicky Rhodes_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Nicky Rhodes, Shutterstock

One of the easiest things to start doing is to take your dog for a walk! While you shouldn’t drag an out-of-shape dog out for a 5k run, start pushing your dog to be a little more active by setting up walks throughout the day. If your dog doesn’t want to get out and move, try using dog-safe vegetables like broccoli or carrots to coax him or her into moving around.

4. Swap Out Treats for Veggies

dog food_New-Africa, Shutterstock
Image Credit: New-Africa, Shutterstock

While some dogs will not approve of this, but many other dogs love vegetables! If your dog is a big veggie lover, swap out treats for veggies instead. If your dog is not a vegetable lover, try to find high-quality treats that are low in calories per treat. Treats that are biscuit-like, such as Milkbone, are rarely healthy and will add to your dog’s weight problem.

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Conclusion

Dog weight can be a sensitive topic, with many pet owners swearing that their dog isn’t fat at all. While it may not seem like a serious problem, dog obesity a nationwide issue that plagues hundreds of dogs yearly. If you think your dog has a weight issue, consult with your vet as soon as you can to prevent other problems from arriving. With persistence and patience, your dog can lose the extra weight and seem years younger than before.


Featured Image Credit: Hebi B., Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.