How to Help An Overweight Dog

Oh no, I think I have an overweight dog! If the thought has crossed your mind, you’re not alone.  According to some estimates, more than 50% of all dogs are overweight. As pet owners, we make a significant contribution to the health and fitness of our four-legged friends.

 Therefore, this article will give you an overview of the most common reasons for overweight in dogs and what you can do to help  your dog get back to its normal weight.

How Can I Tell If my Dog ​​is Overweight?

A tired pup lying on sheets

There are several ways to tell if your dog is overweight. If you can no longer feel your dog’s ribs when you place your hands loosely on the dog’s chest, that is a very likely sign that your dog is overweight – or even obese. 

You should also look at your dog from above: is there a waistline? If you can answer yes to both, then your dog has an ideal weight. In dogs, this measure is called the Body Condition Score or BCS for short.

If you can see the ribs from a distance, this indicates that the dog is underweight.

From a mathematical point of view, your dog is already overweight if it deviates from the ideal weight by up to 10%. Converted this means that a dog that according to a weight chart should weigh 20lbs is considered overweight if she is over 22lbs. 

But now you might be wondering how you know what the ideal weight is for your dog? In fact, you can’t just make this dependent on the size of your dog, as some dog breeds are naturally slimmer than others. If you compare a greyhound to a ridgeback and they are the same size, in all likelihood the ridgeback will still be heavier at the ideal weight. So there is no body mass index ( BMI ) like there is for humans.

If your dog is overweight, you can slowly “feel your way” to the ideal weight (in the truest sense of the word). The ideal weight for dogs is usually the weight they had in the growth phase. Please note, however, that dogs have a different growth phase depending on the breed of dog.

Can Dogs Get Obese As Well?

Unfortunately, we have to answer this question with a very clear yes. The line between overweight in dogs and obesity cannot be drawn precisely; there is no predefined formula here. Obesity describes obesity. From 15-20% overweight you can say that your dog is obese.

If this strikes close to home you should definitely act now! We will tell you in this article which health consequences this disease can have unless you get it under control.

Health Problems typical for an Overweight dog

A dog having health issues due to overweight

If your four-legged friend weighs a few pounds more than they should, this can significantly affect their health and quality of life. As with humans, almost all organs are stressed too much in dogs that are too fat. 

This overload of the organism can cause illness – and ultimately even death . If your dog is too fat, the excess weight not only affects your dog’s joints. Fat cells are part of what regulates metabolism so too high a fat content can shift your dog’s metabolism.  

The wrong balance can cause your dog to develop insulin resistance, for example, which is the harbinger of type 2 diabetes (increased insulin levels and blood sugar levels). In addition, one can detect inflammatory messenger substances in obese dogs. This can over time promote the development of osteoarthritis.

Other diseases and consequences that can result from obesity in dogs are:

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Skin disorders
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Incontinence
  • Wound healing disorders during operations and injuries
  • Restricted joy of movement
  • arthritis
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cancer
  • High blood pressure
  • Joint injuries

Major Causes For your Overweight Dog

An overweight dog sitting on a stool

Despite our best intentions, dogs can become overweight or obese for many different reasons.

The basic principle is actually quite simple: If the dog absorbs more energy than the organism consumes through metabolism and exercise, it will pack on pounds. If the energy balance is in balance, the weight remains the same.

However, many other factors also play a role, including:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Sterilization / castration
  • Psychological reasons
  • Lifestyle & family environment
  • Hormonal disorders
  • Illness
  • Genetic factors

Here you will find an overview of the 9 most common reasons that can be responsible for being overweight in your four-legged friend:

1. Sedentary lifestyle is major cause for an overweight dog

Whether small, large, old or young – every dog ​​needs a certain amount of daily exercise, otherwise it cannot burn the calories it consumes. Without activity, dogs will sooner or later experience boredom, health problems, and obesity. And since we are responsible for our four-legged friends, we have to make sure that they move enough. You can also reduce the feed rations and thus reduce the daily intake of calories.

2. Treats

Every treat is an additional, superfluous source of energy for the four-legged friend , because they usually get the balanced main meal from their bowl.

It’s best to add up the daily “extras”. If there are more than five, you should subtract the treats from the daily feed ration or switch to apple and carrot treats.

3. Dry food

Dry food provides a high level of energy with low weight.

Therefore, check the weight of your four-legged friend regularly and always use the lower limit as a basis for the manufacturer’s food recommendations. Make sure you have enough vegetables and fruits in your dog’s diet.

4. Breed

Certain breeds of dogs tend to be overweight due to their breed. Some examples are:

  • Labrador
  • Golden retriever
  • Cocker spaniel
  • Beagle

With these four-legged friends in particular, you have to make sure that they don’t use the food bowl too much or sneak something from other dogs. On the other hand, greyhounds and whippets, for example, are less at risk of being overweight or obese.

5. Gender

Bitches need a more stringent diet to achieve the same weight loss as males – like humans, hormonal factors play a large role in weight change, which leads us to the next point.

6. Castration

Due to hormonal changes, animals tend to become overweight, as the sex hormones control the appetite and metabolism of our four-legged friends. As a result, they have less desire to exercise after castration or sterilization and therefore burn fewer calories. Try to motivate your four-legged friend to exercise more every day and to reduce their calorie intake. It may also make sense to switch to diet food. But this should best be clarified with the veterinarian.

7. Age

An old dog wearing glasses

The metabolism also changes with age, because the older the dog gets, the slower its body works. It comes to muscle loss , the result is obesity.

For most breeds, this happens between the ages of seven and ten. A seven year old dog may need up to 20% less energy intake than a young adult dog. However, if they consume the same amount of calories, the older dog will put on weight faster. One possible countermeasure is to switch to low-calorie senior food.

As your dog gets older, you may want to pay extra attention to any weight gain. The first sign that your dog is starting to get older is a lower level of activity, longer sleep times, and less interest in long walks and games. Learn more about old dog behavior  and what to look out for.

8. Hormonal disorders and diseases

Hormonal imbalance can also cause your dog to be overweight. For example, an underactive thyroid can lead to insufficient hormone production. Or the adrenal glands are stimulated to overproduce cortisol, which can lead to Cushing’s disease – dogs don’t get fat, but the fat shifts towards the abdomen, so that they get a kind of pendulous stomach.

Of course, it is also possible that your four-legged friend can no longer be as active due to an injury to the musculoskeletal system. As a result, the daily feed ration leads to weight problems.

9. Lifestyle & family environment

It is often difficult for pet parents to determine what a healthy body shape looks like for their pet – this is often the case when the owners themselves are also overweight. According to a recent study, obese pets are twice as likely to have obese owners compared to normal weight owners. This misperception can be a major obstacle to weight loss.

How can I help my dog ​​lose weight?

A dog playing with a toy

There is a lot you can do to help your best friend have a healthy and happy life. You have already taken the first correct step because you have recognized that you want to change something about the dog’s obesity. With that you are already much further than many thousands of other dog owners! 

But what exactly do you do now? Here are our top tips on how to lose weight for your dog:

Has your dog being checked by a vet?

Before you start dieting your dog, you should have your veterinarian check it out. Because if obesity suddenly arises for no real reason, this often points to an illness. Then there would be no point in trying to get your dog to lose weight.

The weight-loss program should only start after your veterinarian has given approval and has determined that your dog’s overall health is ok. 

Proper nutrition for an overweight dog

  • Make sure the dog is getting a balanced diet.
  • Count the calories, measure the portion sizes, and give him small meals (consult your vet for detailed recommendations).
  • Try giving him fewer processed carbohydrates and replacing them with healthy proteins and vegetables.
  • Rely on high quality dog ​​food.
  • Avoid too many snacks and treats.
  • Change your dog’s diet gradually so that he has time to get used to the healthier foods.
  • Only use treats as a reward when your dog has done something particularly well.

Exercise & Lifestyle

  • Take your dog for the number of daily walks recommended for the breed or by your veterinarian.
  • Find a training partner for your dog.
  • Playing, playing and playing together is the order of the day!
  • Track your dog’s activity and calorie consumption with a fitness tracker .
  • Put the food bowl all the way up on the stairs so your dog has to move to get to it.
  • Let your dog roam free in the dog park or a fenced area – with a GPS tracker you can follow your darling on your smartphone at any time without having to worry about them.


  • Get to the bottom of possible causes of illness.
  • Weigh your dog regularly.
  • Make sure your dog is drinking enough water.
  • If your dog is panting, limping, or has other health problems, consult your veterinarian.
  • Think about whether you should give your dog food supplements (in consultation with your veterinarian, of course).

Lifestyle changes

  • The whole family should be actively involved in the change in lifestyle.
  • Reward your dog with time together and petting instead of treats.
  • Swap out the old snacks for healthy, long-lasting chew toys.
  • Regularly ask yourself if there is anything else you can do for the health of your darling.

Next steps to help your dog

The number of overweight and obese dogs is increasing worldwide. In most cases, this affects the dog’s quality of life and can lead to serious health and even life-threatening problems. If your dog is overweight, your primary goal should be to help your dog develop healthy habits and thus counteract possible health risks.

Losing weight is about long-term solutions and not about overnight success – follow our tips to achieve the ideal weight for your four-legged friend! 

Finally, you read all the way through and that alone tells me you and your dog are on the right track. The first step has been taken, now you just have to put the rest into action.