Overweight dog. Causes, symptoms, food calculator, how to make a dog lose weight.

An overweight dog is more likely to die two years younger. Studies have proven that dogs with ideal body weight live longer with less disease incidence. Is your dog overweight? Here is more on what makes a dog overweight, symptoms and feeding guides on how to make your dog lose weight.

Causes- What Makes a Dog Overweight?

Recent studies have shown that over 50% of America’s pet population is overweight. 35 million of this cut is dogs. Lifestyles have changed over time. People are getting fatter and since dogs love sharing in our indulgences, obesity in dogs is becoming an epidemic.

Overweight Dog
Overweight Dog

The most common cause of weight gain in dogs in bad eating habits. Here are other things that may cause your dog to become overweight;

Breed/ Genetics

Some breeds are prone to put on extra weight. Well, this does not mean that all dogs from that breed will be overweight. It is simply a call for pet owners with such breeds to look for out for signs of being overweight. Make efforts to maintain a healthy weight. Breeds at risk of becoming overweight include;

  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Beagles
  • Dachshunds
  • Shetland Sheepdogs
  • Basset Hounds
  • Labrador Retrievers


Dogs tend to become lazy and put up most weight between ages 2-12. Pups and young dogs are generally active with a high metabolism rate. This makes them less likely to become overweight. Older dogs have lower energy requirements making it easier for them to put on undesirable extra weight.

According to peteducation.com, dogs below 2 years of age that show tendencies to be overweight should not be overlooked.

Type of Food, Availability of Food

Making your dog’s food available at all times puts him at risk of being overweight. Some dogs will eat anything as long as it is made available. Let your dog get used to specific meal times. If possible, your dog can have his food at the same time the entire family does.

Neutering or Spaying

Some dogs experience a decrease in metabolism after spaying or neutering. To prevent weight gain following spaying or neutering, exercise your dog frequently and make sure he gets appropriate amounts of food.


Drugs such as dexamethasone, phenobarbital, and prednisolone can interfere with your dog’s appetite and metabolism. These are usually given at either low doses or for a short period to avoid undesirable effects.


Female dogs that are not spayed can become pregnant. Some dog owners may not be aware that their pets are pregnant. This could easily be mistaken for weight gain. Getting your dog into a weight loss program while pregnant will just not work. Actually, it could be detrimental to her health.

Medical Conditions

Parasitic Infections

Water retention due to parasitic infestations will make your dog pot-bellied. This gives the appearance of weight gain. Parasites are most likely to infest pups and young dogs due to poor immune systems. Fluid retention may also be a symptom of heart disease. Regular visits to the vet can help diagnose this problem before it becomes life threatening.

Cushing’s disease

Dogs with Cushing’s produce too much cortisol. This may be due to adrenal or pituitary tumors. Muscle wasting and development of a potbelly are common symptoms in Cushing’s. Lost muscle is over time replaced with fat.


Canine bloat also known as Gastric Dilatation volvulus is another serious condition that may be mistaken for weight gain. This condition however, happens really fast. A keen dog owner should be able to tell an overweight dog from a gassy one.

Canine Bloat may be mistaken for weight gain in dogs
Canine Bloat may be mistaken for weight gain in dogs

Bloating in dogs happens when something goes wrong during digestion of food. Gases build up in the stomach causing it to stretch beyond its limits. This cuts off circulation to the stomach. Within a few hours, there is irreversible cell damage, shock and cardiac arrest. Rush your dog to the vet as soon as you notice any signs of canine bloat.

Video: Dog Weight Loss- FREE Mini course - Calorie calculator- Homemade Dog Food Recipies

Symptoms of Weight Gain in Dogs

Most dog owners do not accept that their dogs are overweight. Before settling down for a weight loss plan, here are things you should know;

Simply place your hands on the side of your dog’s rib cage. Carefully run your hand down to his sternum. For a dog with ideal body weight, you can feel his ribs individually. If you can hardly feel the ribs- means your dog’s belly drags and he needs to lose weight. A dog with protruding ribs is likely thin. More signs of an overweight dog include;

  • Difficulty in walking
  • Heavy breathing, constantly panting
  • A collar that has become tight over time
  • The waist is not obvious, loss of the tummy tuck
  • Laziness or sleeping more than usual

An overweight dog is more likely to suffer from life threatening medical conditions such as;

  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Heart diseases

How to Make A Dog Lose Weight

Know your Dog’s Ideal Body Weight

Good knowledge of your dog’s ideal body weight is good place to start. According to a study on effects of diet restriction on life span and age related changes in dogs, 25% restriction in food intake increased median life span and delayed onset of chronic disease in dogs.

To get weight ranges for each breed, visit the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. A visit to the vet will not only help to know your dog’s ideal body weight. He will examine your dog to rule out medical conditions that may cause overweight and obesity.

It may not be easy to determine ideal body weight for dogs with different shapes and sizes. There are no clear standards on the ideal weight system for mixed breeds. In such cases, the Nestle Purina Body Condition Score is essential.

Body Condition Score Chart for Overweight Dog
Body Condition Score Chart for Overweight Dog

Calculate Calories and Control Food Intake

The most important dog weight loss principle is making sure your dog consumes fewer calories that he burns. Your dog’s ideal body weight will help you calculate the amount of calories he needs to take to lose weight.

It is good practice to measure your dog’s food. This allows you to assess food intake. Ask the vet to help you measure how much your dog should take.

Use the Dog Food Calculator for an Overweight Dog

This will help you to estimate the proper number of calories for your dog. To use the dog food calculator you need to know his ideal body weight and activity level. Check the recommendations and number of calories present in the specific dog food you are feeding him.

An example of a dog food calculator
An example of a dog food calculator

According to the Dog Food Advisor, many dog foods labelled for weight loss may not be the best choice. They replace protein content with low calorie high carbohydrate foods. These give your dog a feeling of fullness but just for a short time. This means that your dog will want to eat small potions frequently.

Note that none of the methods discussed above will be effective if used sorely. Dogs are different. For each body type and breed, design a weight loss program that is custom made for your dog.

Weigh your dog every 1-2 weeks. Ask your vet to evaluate the progress. Adjust the feeding sizes until you get to the ideal serving for weight loss.

The dog food calculator should not be used for puppies and expectant dogs.


You’ll notice that an overweight dog becomes lazy over time. Once you notice your dog is panting after walking for short distances, it’s time to hit the gym (well, not literally). Start by walking your dog. Take note of the distance it takes for him to get tired. Increase the pace and distance you walk him each day.

Video: Fighting dog obesity: Dennis’ journey to lose weight

Note that this is not a pleasure walk. Do not allow your dog to sniff things on the way. An ideal walk for an overweight dog should be at least 30 minutes a day.

Reduce snacks and Unhealthy Treats

Dogs may get used to being rewarded especially if done from an early age. Dog treats are not necessities. They find pleasure in being rewarded- not necessarily eating. This does not mean that you scrap off treats for a dog that is used to rewards. The best thing to do will be to reduce treat sizes. You can also substitute food treats with praises or pats.

Discourage snacks from the dinner table. Make sure that no one in the family sneaks to give snacks to your dog behind your back.

Overweight Dog Diet

Dogs are free feeders. If possible, they can eat 24 hours a day. They may eat just to get rid of boredom than when hungry. Do not leave food out on his bowl the entire day. Try to divide his meals into two or three equal parts. This will sustain your dog’s appetite for longer. Stick to the same meal times.

Once you come up with a feeding plan, try to stick to it until your dog get to a healthy weight.

Note that the recommendations on dog food packages should only be used as anchor points. Start on this and tailor make the amounts in respect to your dog’s metabolism rates, their age and how active they are. Once your dog loses the extra weight, maintain the serving sizes to sustain the healthy weight.

Sources and References

Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando: Myths and Facts about Spaying and Neutering

Veterinary Record: Canine and Feline Obesity

Pet Education: Diseases and Conditions Contributing to Dog Obesity

Pet MD: 7 Causes Behind Weight Gain in Dogs

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