Dog Obesity: How do you know your dog is overweight?

Dog Obesity: How do you know your dog is overweight?

A chubby dog is often assumed to be healthy, possibly even cute. However, if your dog is overweight, this can be a serious threat to its health. Dog obesity is a very real problem facing today's four-legged best friends, but a lot of owners don't realize just how much of a problem the extra pounds can be.

The latest research shows that more than half of dogs are overweight. A 2019 Vet Report offered data harvested from over 1,000 animal hospitals and showed that of 1.9 million dogs, 51 percent were considered overweight. If you believe your dog is overweight, take the time to get to know some of the related health concerns and what you can do to help.

Causes of Obesity in Dogs

A number of factors contribute to canine obesity beyond overfeeding and lack of exercise. Here is a closer look.

Lacking Activity Levels

Dogs can be generally active creatures, but this alone is not enough to keep a dog in shape. After all, canines rely on owners to make sure they get the right level of exercise. Indoor pets can be more prone to obesity because they don't usually get as much exercise.


All dogs have a recommended calorie intake depending on their usual activity levels, size, and physiology. This is one reason why it is important to work with your veterinarian to get a good understanding of just how much food your dog should get at each meal. Likewise, low-quality food can be an issue; some foods offer a lot of empty calories due to fillers and not enough nutritive content. Therefore, a dog will eat more or show it is hungry more frequently.


Older dogs are more prone to obesity. In general, dogs over five years old do not expend so many calories because their activity levels decrease. Therefore, if the dog's nutritional intake is not monitored, they can get overweight pretty quickly as they get older. Genetic predisposition can also be an issue, as some dog breeds are more prone to canine obesity than others.

Medications/Medical Treatments

Certain medical treatments and medicines can make canine obesity more of a risk. For example, some dogs gain weight after being spayed or neutered because energy levels can change, and dogs on medicines like glucocorticoids are prone to irregular fat accumulation.

Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions may contribute to canine obesity, even though the condition is not always recognized before the dog is overweight. For example, dogs with hypothyroidism may gain weight without a lot of explanation. Dogs with physical limitations, such as older dogs with arthritis, may also be likely to gain weight simply because their activity levels can change so drastically.

How do I know if my dog is overweight?

You can do a general assessment of your dog and get an idea of whether or not it is overweight. You look at their overall physique and use your hands to assess different points of the dog's body. In general, a dog may be obese if:

  • The dog's waistline is about the same size as its upper shoulders or bigger
  • You can only feel the dog's ribs with substantial pressure
  • The dog has substantial fat deposits at the base of its tail or along its lower spine
  • You see the dog's abdomen distended

When the vet assesses your dog to determine if it is obese, they will do a standard visual and touch examination. However, they will also take measurements, get the dog's accurate weight, and use comparative breed standards to make a determination.

Breeds Most Susceptible to Being Overweight

Dogs of just about any breed can get overweight if they consume too many calories or don't get enough exercise. However, some dog breeds are definitely more prone to obesity than others. A few breeds that are most likely to have issues with obesity include:

  • Beagles
  • Pugs
  • Bulldogs
  • Dachshunds
  • Basset Hounds
  • Golden Retrievers

The fact that these breeds are more prone to obesity could be blamed on a number of factors, such as genetics and physical traits. For example, the Daschund with its short stature and longer body has an unusual body composition and a tendency to gain weight around its midsection.

The Health Effects of Dog Obesity

Dog obesity is linked to a number of other health conditions. First and foremost, an overweight dog has a lower quality of life and may even have a shortened life span. Research on Labrador Retrievers found that dogs that were at a healthy weight lived about two years longer than siblings that were roughly 15 percent overweight. Dogs who are overweight can also deal with lack of energy, physical discomfort, and more general stress.

As far as health conditions, several top the list as likely when a dog is obese, such as:

  • Joint problems
  • Back problems
  • Inflammation
  • Cardiovascular and respiratory disease
  • Decreased immune functions
  • Metabolic abnormalities
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Skin disease

What to Do If Your Dog Needs a Diet

Just as it is with humans, dogs can reach a healthier weight, but they will need your help. First, if your dog is obese, check with the vet to ensure no underlying health issues are to blame. Speak to the vet to get recommendations about weight management as well. Here are a few other helpful tips to help you get your dog's weight to a healthier place.

1. Establish a feeding schedule

Around 46 percent of pet owners admit that they give their dog food or treats when it begs. However, establishing a feeding schedule is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your dog is not taking in more calories than it actually needs. Try to feed your dog at regular intervals throughout the day.

2. Invest in the best food and treats

Take a discerning look at the food and treats you give your dog. Remember to look for things like filler ingredients that add bulk but not nutritive value, such as white flour, yellow cornmeal, or meat byproducts. Instead, opt for food and treats with whole ingredients. For example, Good Grub Dog Food is made with insect protein, sweet potato, oats, flaxseed, and other filling ingredients that have ample nutritive value.

3. Measure the dog's food daily

Professionals recommend that no more than 10 percent of a dog's diet comes from treats or table scraps. So keep an eye on caloric intake between meals. Likewise, talk to your vet or do a bit of research to get a good grasp of how many calories your dog actually needs.

4. Encourage regular activity

To thwart the risk of canine obesity, all dogs need some level of exercise. You may not be able to run several miles a day or always take a trip to the dog park. However, even something as simple as a game of fetch every day or walking an extra block can make a huge difference.

A Healthy Weight Starts with the Best Dog Food and Treats

Unfortunately, once a dog is obese, it can be so challenging to get it back on track. Therefore, close tabs on nutritional intake from the start are ever-important. At Jiminy's, we focus on food and treats made with grub or cricket protein and whole plant ingredients. 

This means your dog gets nutrient-dense food that's both delicious and fulfilling, while also being easy to digest. Take a look at our collection to find everything from kibble to treats your dog will love.