Overweight Dogs & Nutrition: 8 Vital Aspects

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Overweight Dogs & Nutrition: 8 Vital Aspects

Obesity is the most common nutritional health problem in dogs. According to the data of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 54% of dogs in the United States suffer from obesity.

Adipose tissue is an endocrine organ and obesity is considered a chronic inflammatory disease.

This article can help you to deal with this disease and improve your dog’s health and quality of life.

Table of Contents

  1. What is obesity?
  2. Does neutering cause gain weight in dogs?
  3. Why should my dog lose weight?
  4. Why is my dog obese?
  5. Do I have an obese dog?
  6. How can I access my dog’s body fat?
  7. How can I help my dog lose weight?
  8. How many calories does my dog need?
  9. How to prevent dog obesity through exercise?
  10. What is the correct feeding schedule?
  11. How long will it take?
  12. Are therapeutic weight loss formulas always necessary?
  13. How can I prevent my obese dog from eating my other dog’s food?
  14. Will my pet feel hungry during a nutrition program designed to lose weight?
  15. Are treats and snacks allowed during diet period?
  16. What should I do to minimize my dog’s begging behavior and food seeking?
  17. The role of nutrition

1. What is obesity?

Obesity is an accumulation of excess fat in the body tissues as a consequence of an energy intake which goes over necessities.

Less active dogs tend to be overweight.

dog obesity

2. Does neutering cause gain weight in dogs?

NO. Neutering your dog doesn’t cause your dog to become obese.

After neutering some changes in behavior can happen. Additionally, these procedure results in some hormonal changes that induce slower metabolism and increase appetite.

So you may need to adapt your dog’s diet after the surgery, especially during the first two years. Neutered dogs need fewer calories to maintain a healthy weight and body condition.

And don’t forget to provide lots of exercise with toys and walks.

3. Why should my dog lose weight?

If your dog is overweight you should consider help him lose weight because there are a numerous health conditions associated with obesity such as:

  • Shortened lifespan
  • Disease of the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys
  • Rheumatism
  • Arthritis
  • Tumors (e.g. mammary cancer and transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder)
  • Decreased exercise tolerance
  • Liver disease
  • Surgical and anesthetic risk
  • Poor coat and skin condition
  • Lowered resistance to infectious diseases
If you control your dog’s weight you can prevent all the morbidities listed above.

4. Why is my dog obese?

There are two main causes for obesity to occur:

  • Eating too much
  • Lack of exercise

Veterinarians consider that the following conditions contribute to dog´s obesity:

  • Age: Older dogs are less active and need a smaller amount of calories
  • Breed: Some breeds tend to be obese like Labrador retrievers, and Cocker and Cavalier King Charles spaniels
  • Neutering: The metabolism of neutered dogs is inferior. Thus neutered dogs necessitate fewer calories
  • Overfeeding
  • Overeating
  • Feeding habits (table scraps and “people food”)

5. Do I have an obese dog?

Dogs have an ideal weight for their size and breed. Dogs that are 10% to 20% above ideal body weight are considered overweight.

My Advice:

Consult your veterinarian about your dog’s healthy weight. He can help you to find out the answers for the following questions:

  • What is the target weight for my dog?
  • What are the health risks if my dog is overweight?

Assessing your dog’s body condition (BC) is a useful method for assessing body fat. It combines:

  • Visual assessment (from the top and side)
  • Palpation (waist, ribs and abdominal tuck, and dorsal spinous processes at tail base) to assess adipose tissue mass


Numeric Scale To Access BC Underweight Ideal Overweight
5 Point Scale 1 – 2 3 4 – 5
9 Point Scale 1 -3 4 – 5 6 – 9


6. How can I access my dog’s body fat?

If your dog is obese, you may note some of the following signs:

  • Ribs cannot easily be felt when running your hand along your dog’s side
  • Loss of an apparent waist
  • Collar needs loosening
  • Trouble in walking
  • Slow movement
  • Shortness of breath
  • Bad temper
  • Sleeping more than usual

7. How can I help my dog lose weight?

Obesity is frequent in dogs, and can be effectively managed through:

  • Adjustments in your dog’s food
  • Follow a nutrition program advised for your veterinarian

8. How many calories does my dog need?

First, you need to know what the ideal daily energy intake your dog require and will not cause your dog to gain or lose weight.

You should use the metabolic energy requirement (MER) formula to do this calculation.

MER (kcal) = 132 x (ideal body weight in kilograms)^0.75

MER formula tends to overestimate a dog’s actual caloric need to maintain a certain weight. You need to always consider your dog’s life stage and activity levels. For example:

  • Puppies, sport dogs and pregnant dogs need two times or more their MER
  • Older dogs need only 0.8 times their MER to maintain weight

After you calculate your dog’s MER you can determine how many grams of food he needs per day. Generally, dog foods have their caloric level per gram written on the label.

9. How to prevent dog obesity through exercise?

Including regular exercise into your dog’s day will make the weight loss program more effective.

Here are some tips:

  • Enjoy regular walks with your dog
  • Support play in the backyard and in the home
  • Throw a Frisbee or a ball
  • Swim with your dog if he likes water

9. What is the correct feeding schedule?

Your dog’s daily dog food amount should be offered over two or three meals a day at even intervals.

Use a measuring cup or a scale for precise food quantity.

10. How long will it take?

A safe rate of weight loss is 1 % per week.

For example, a dog of 30 kilogram who is 4.5 kilograms overweight. In a weight reduction program he should be shedding 1.2 kilograms over a month – [(30 kilograms x 1%) x 4 weeks]. So he will take approximately four months [4.5 kilograms  1.2 kilogram] to lose 4.5 kilograms.

12. Are therapeutic weight loss formulas always necessary?

Therapeutic weight loss diets are formulated to ensure that dogs consume adequate nutrients during caloric restriction.

Feeding a small amount of a maintenance dog food can result in a lack of nutrients.

However, dogs that need to lose 5 -10 % of their body weight will achieve their ideal body weight without a severe caloric restriction. Nontherapeutic dog food formulas (calorie restricted) represent an adequate choice.

13. How can I prevent my obese dog from eating my other dog’s food?

Feed the obese dog in one room and feed the other dog elsewhere in a constant schedule.

Remember do not leave food out while you are not at home.

14. Will my pet feel hungry during a nutrition program designed to lose weight?

Obesity management diets contain a low level of energy and the correct balance of nutrients in a tasty, satisfying meal.

These diets have been developed to offer a generous amount of food to help your pet feel less hungry whilst on the diet.

Still, a dog on a low-calorie diet may feel hungry, especially in the beginning of the nutritional program.

This usually decreases after about two weeks on the diet.

15. Are treats and snacks allowed during diet period?

Low-calorie biscuits, low-calorie vegetables (e.g. carrot, cucumber, and green beans) are allowed but must be counted as calories.

The number of calories from treats should not exceed 10 % of the daily caloric intake.

Another option is if you are feeding a dry food, you can put aside a few biscuits from your dog’s daily food portion and offer them like treats during the day.

16. What should I do to minimize my dog’s begging behavior and food seeking?

In order to avoid these behaviors, you should pet your dog or play with him when it begs for food.

Many dogs substitute food for love. You can also take a walk with him. Healthy outdoors activity will distract him.

You can feed small meals. Divide the total volume or calories into four to six smaller meals.

When the bowl is empty and your dog is begging, add a few (3 or 4) kibbles to the bowl.

Offer him crunchy low-calorie vegetables such as baby carrots, broccoli, celery, and asparagus.

You can offer your dog a diet high in fiber and moisture, this way you can improve your dog’s satiety.

17. The role of nutrition

The food your dog eats is crucial in his overall health and well-being.

Appropriate nutrition is essential for the treatment of an overweight dog.

Exercise, a low-fat and low-calorie dog food is indispensable in helping your dog lose weight and stay fit.

Fiber is also a very important ingredient because it helps your dog eat less while keeping his full.

Once your dog has been overweight, he may tend to be overweight and should have an ongoing weight management nutritional program based on:

  • Balanced nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Regular check-ups

You should keep an eye on your dog’s weight because dog obesity has a negative impact on the quality of life and longevity and dramatically increase the cost of their veterinary care.


About the Author:

Hi! I'm Dora Mancha, DVM. I am graduated for the Veterinary Medicine Faculty of Lisbon (2009). My degree is recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). I completed my degree in Veterinary Medicine in July, 2009. Over the first years as a veterinarian my work was closely related to the animal health field. I have gained some average experience having worked in Barcelona University (UAB) Equine Hospital and by working with veterinarians in Portugal. In addition, in 2009 - 2010 I was in Madrid at the University Alfonso X el Sábio doing an internship in the equine service. I am also very interested in small animal medicine and surgery. In fact I worked in several small animals clinics in Portugal improving my knowledge about small animal behavior and health. Dogs always have been present in my life, since I was a child. At the present moment I have four dogs a Labrador, a Epagnheul Breton, a Whippet and a mixed breed dog.

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