Obese dog lying on the grass and smiling at the camera

Obesity isn’t just a problem that affects humans, it’s also impacting our pets too. Sadly, there are more overweight dogs than ever before and it’s a leading cause of pet mortality.

Of course, nobody wants to harm their pet, but there really is such a thing as killing with kindness.

As pet owners ourselves here at Closer Pets, we know that’s a scary thought. But it’s also something that’s important to think about to make sure you’re keeping your pet healthy. That’s why it’s helpful to be aware of the risks of obesity in dogs and learn what to do about it.

And the good news is that there’s plenty you can do to bring your four-legged friend to a safe weight without resorting to medication or surgery.

The health risks of an overweight dog

As obesity in dogs can impact their health, let’s tackle that point first.

An overweight dog is more susceptible to illness and disease in the same way as their humans.

Your pup can be much more at risk from diabetes mellitus, cancer, heart disease, hypertension, osteoarthritis, joint issues, urinary infections, bladder stones and anaesthetic complications, should they need an operation.

Worst of all, an overweight dog isn’t going to be able to run, play, chase, fetch or enjoy life anywhere near as much as they should. And that’s what we’re all about!

How to tell if your dog is overweight

When you live under the same roof as your furry friend, it can often be difficult to notice when they are putting on weight.

However, there are some tried and tested ways to tell if your dog is overweight – even if there are no scales in sight!

Stand over your companion and run your hands over their ribs from above. You should feel the ribs with a thin-ish layer of skin and fat over the top.

Look down at your dog while you’re there. You should see a distinct waistline or tucked area just before the back legs. This can differ depending on the breed, but there should always be some kind of indent before the legs.

If you’re ever in doubt, take them to the vet. It never hurts to have a second opinion!

Common causes of obesity in dogs

Common causes of obesity in dogs are overeating, over-treating and not enough exercise. It can be as simple as feeding them too much at dinner.

You know how dogs are: always hungry, always willing to eat more and always seeming to give you puppy eyes when they have licked their bowl clean! Dogs know precisely how to play us and will shamelessly use our love for them to get more food.

Treats, or over-treating, can also contribute to obesity in dogs. Using lots of packet treats can provide a lot of excess, and usually empty, calories in their diet. And as much as we know how valuable treats are as a training tool, we can all overdo them at times. Not that you’ll hear your dog complaining any time soon!

And lastly, when a dog is not getting enough exercise, obesity is more likely to be a cause for concern. Dogs of all breeds, ages and types need to be exercised. They’re active animals and need to run and play to burn off energy and keep them fit. 

A lack of exercise can not only cause them to gain weight, but it can impact their behaviour too. Plus, taking the dog out for a walk, playing ball, fetch, hide and seek, and all the other games we play is part of the fun of having a dog!

5 ways to tackle obesity in dogs

Once you identify – and admit – you have an overweight dog, there are a few simple things you can do about it.

1. Reduce meal sizes

If you don’t typically measure your pup’s meals, start doing it. Use the feeding guide on the side of the tin or packet to help you control portion size.

As long as you’re slightly reducing the amount you’re putting into the bowl, you’re reducing their calorie intake.

If you’re lucky, your four-legged friend won’t even notice!

If you have multiple dogs and one is a dinner raider, use a microchip feeder to stop sneaky siblings from accessing the other’s food. These feeders are best suited to smaller dogs and require each dog to be recognised by their own microchip to reveal their meal.

This is an indirect way to stop raiding, whether you’re in the room or not.

2. Improve the quality of your dog’s food

Improving your dog’s food quality usually means spending more money. That’s a tough ask in these times, but it could be a genuine life-or-death decision.

We appreciate that spending more is difficult right now, but it’s an investment well worth making if it’s helping to improve the quality of life of your pet, and could help you avoid big vet bills further down the line.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to go full premium or buy the food sold at your vet though.

Do your research, read reviews and check the best dog food with the highest quality ingredients you can afford.

If your pup can eat the same amount with fewer calories and more nutrition, everybody wins!

3. Reduce treats

If your dog could read, they would be giving us a dirty look right about now…but treating has to be controlled. That’s especially true for overweight dogs.

Some people show their love through treating, which is fine, as long as it’s not too often.

You’ll find that most packet treats will have a feeding guide on the packet. Use that as an upper limit rather than a guide and keep treating under control.

It will take willpower, we know, but if you have an overweight dog, they’ll thank you for it. 

4. Make your own treats

While behaviour change is always useful, there’s no need to give up treats altogether if you have an overweight dog.

The key is to give treats in moderationm Make sure your pet has a well-balanced diet to start with and adjust portions accordingly so you don’t end up accidentally overfeeding them.

Making your own treats doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming, and it could help your dog lose weight.

Why not try making some healthy homemade chicken biscuits or super simple peanut butter and banana treats that your dog will love?

5. Exercise your dog more

Our final tip for tackling obesity in dogs is obvious, but it’s also the most fun. I mean, who doesn’t want an excuse to play more with their dog?

Dogs need exercise, both for physical and mental well-being. And we need it too! So we can all benefit from walking more, playing more, chasing more and generally having fun with our precious pup.

If getting out together helps them become more mobile and lose weight, it simply must be done!

Tackling obesity in dogs

Tackling obesity in dogs doesn’t have to be expensive or complex, but it does have to be done.

It could be a simple change or something more radical, but if you do nothing, we all sadly know where it ends.

If you have questions or want to make big changes, consult your vet first – just in case!