10 Top Causes, Prevention & Symptoms of Obesity in Dogs

Symptoms of Obesity in Dogs

Symptoms of obesity in dogs have been an issue for dog owners, and in this article, we will be discussing the top most common causes, prevention, and symptoms of obesity in dogs.

A high-fat dog has an excess of body fat, which causes their muscles to become smaller and weaker, making them weaker and more susceptible to injury and disease.

According to veterinary experts at the University of Cambridge, a dog with a weight of 35 kg (77 pounds) or more is obese, but there are some situations where a dog is more likely to be obese than others.

Even with obesity in mind, obesity in dogs is not inevitable. If your dog is overweight, it is most likely because of one or more of the following conditions.

If your dog is over the age of 3 or shows signs of chronic illness, health problems, or heart disease, it may be time to start looking for other signs of illness.

What is obesity?

Obesity is defined as a buildup of extra bodily fat. Because excess body weight and fat tend to go hand in hand, most overweight dogs will also have excess body fat.

When determining if a dog is overweight or obese, body weight is much easier to determine than body fat.

Dogs are deemed overweight when they weigh 10-20% more than their ideal body weight, according to body weight.

Obese dogs are those dogs who are 20 percent or more over their optimal body weight.

Obese dogs often have a higher risk of cancer and high blood pressure. Let’s look at some symptoms before getting to causes.

Symptoms Of Obesity In Dogs

Here are the top most common symptoms of obesity in dogs which are as follows:

Weight Gain

Obesity can cause the body of a dog to experience changes in blood sugar levels, which will end up leading to weight gain.

Unnecessary rapid changes in the weight of a dog are often associated with obesity risk factors.

You can always observe this weight gain by playing or carrying your dog from time to time.

Changes in appetite, when an animal loses weight because of an illness, can also cause weight loss. These changes include:

  • Decreased thirst
  • Decreased urination
  • Decreased bowel movements
  • Lightweight and lethargic
  • Weight loss due to illness
  • A reduction in appetite

As funny as it may sound, weight gain is just a general name we used to categorize all the listed points above.

The dog’s hunger and the amount of food it is eating can vary. The dog may become less active, as it struggles to be able to eat enough.

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Difficulty breathing

Obesity can have an impact on any dog’s breathing.

Older dogs may have difficulty breathing or their breathing may be noisy, as they struggle to get enough air into their lungs.

Sometimes you notice your dog breathing increasing noise or sound, what happens is that the lungs are not free and are occupied with unnecessary fat deposits.

These lungs are not just occupied overnight it takes at least 6 weeks of overfeeding with high carb food and low exercise to start building up gradually.

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Disproportionate heart and blood vessel size

Overweight dogs may have a thicker heart and smaller blood vessels.

They are more likely to have risk factors for the development of diseases, including cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

As a dog becomes obese the heart grows thicker, making it difficult for small blood vessels to function properly.

The result of such a mechanism is exactly leading to all forms of heart-related problems, especially heart failure in dogs.

Chronic muscle soreness

Eating more can cause sore muscles in the dog’s abdomen.

This may be due to overeating because it requires more energy than other food does.

Once you notice that your dog is consuming more than usual, try to look out for other symptoms of obesity in dogs.

Heat intolerance

If the dog is obese and has become too warm, this can put extra strain on the dog’s heart.

We know that body fat under the skin is what keeps our body temperature under check.

When a dog is obese it has lots of fat deposits in the body and this directly affects how the body of the dog handles temperature control.

In simple terms, obese dogs tend to have a slightly higher body temperature than normal dogs and this can be attributed to fat deposits.


Lethargy in dogs is a state of weariness that involves diminished energy, mental capacity, and motivation.

Lethargy is also a pathological state of sleepiness or deep unresponsiveness and inactivity.

When a dog is overweight there are too many fat deposits and this adds to the total weight of the body.

In dogs, lethargy can lead to a lack of energy and enthusiasm.

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Other Signs of Obesity in Dogs

Obesity is associated with decreased life span, decreased mobility, diabetes, hypothyroidism, osteoarthritis, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, difficulty breathing, difficulty grooming, increased risk of hyperthermia, and increased risk of cancer.

Some signs of obesity are not caused by the dog being overweight. These can be signs of the body creating too much of its own fat.

These are not just signs of obesity, however, they are symptoms of a condition called insulitis, which is a chronic condition.

Dogs suffering from insulitis have extra fat in their stomach, and they are unable to process the extra fat well.

Extra fat is toxic to the dog’s body, so it builds up in the fatty tissue around the abdomen, this can cause obesity.

Common signs of insulitis include:

  • Increased sweating
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Very pale skin
  • Red eyes

Staying fit and exercising regularly in dogs

Dogs do not need to lose weight to stay healthy. In fact, the better their fitness, the less likely it is that they will be overweight.

What Causes Obesity In Dogs

What causes obesity in dogs is exactly what every dog owner wants to know and in this section of the article, we will outline the top possible causes of obesity in dogs.


The key to preventing obesity in your dog is to cut down on the portion sizes that they are fed.

Always remember that dogs can get obese due to overeating.

Dogs need to be fed only the amount that they need. If a dog gets more food than they need, it can eat it all in a single sitting.

Any form of excess consumption of food by your dog causes them to get obese.

And, if a dog gets obese, the chances of them getting cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and other ailments go up.

Lack of Exercise

If you have a large dog, you should walk him or her daily. If your dog is smaller, then you can take him for a quick walk every day.

Most dogs get obese because they do not have enough exercise. The best thing to do is to let your dog run around for a while.

You can allow them to play with other dogs or get a chance to run around in your garden. This way, they can burn off a lot of their extra energy.

If your dog has a lot of energy, then they tend to eat a lot of food.

Also, when the dog plays too hard, they tend to lie around all day. When they do this, their obesity increases even more.

You should not allow your dog to be sedentary for long periods of time.

Poor Diet

Dogs who get obese tend to have poor diets.

If you notice that your dog is suffering from obesity, you should try to improve its diet as soon as possible.

You can start by feeding your dog a healthy diet and adding lots of protein and healthy fats to their diet.

Protein-rich foods for obese dogs include:

Lean protein, such as

  • Whole eggs
  • Chicken
  • Turkey

Low fat, high protein food, such as:

  • Turkey loaf
  • Chicken breast
  • Olive oil
  • Lentils
  • Dried fruits

Lack of Voluntary Activity

Another cause of obesity in dogs is the lack of voluntary activity. Your dog is not getting enough exercise.

There are many dog owners who don’t allow their dogs to play in the backyard.

They think that they are giving their dogs enough exercise. But, their dog is not getting enough exercise.

So, it is important to just get lots of toys for dogs, and allow your dog to do his or her thing at his or her pace.

Most of the time the exercise dogs get by themselves is far much better than the ones you gave them.

Less Productiveness

Some owners allow their dogs to lie around all day. They think that it is a great way to train their dog.

However, the dog will lose its enthusiasm for playing.

The dog will tend to lose its vigor and enthusiasm. This will make them more prone to obesity.

Mast cell activation disorder (MCAD)

While an overgrown gut is the most obvious sign of obesity, mast cell activation disorder (MCAD) is often overlooked.

Overactive mast cells cause the body to increase insulin levels and cortisol levels, which are both stress hormones that signal the body to store fat.

MCAD is primarily seen in large-breed dogs and only occasionally affects smaller breeds.

Exocrine insufficiency (EI)

EI is a group of disorders that affects dogs both with and without the genetic variant of the disease.

It mainly affects puppies and unvaccinated dogs and often arises in a poorly controlled cycle of diarrhea.

Cystic fibrosis

Due to a deficiency of a protein called basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), adult dogs with EI may develop a benign tumor in their adrenal gland.

This might not cause any problems and go unnoticed, but in some cases, it can be fatal.

Obesity in dogs isn’t just a problem of genetics, but also where you choose to take your dog for walks.

The most popular exercise options for your dog are walking and running.


Boredom has got to be one of the major reasons behind obesity in dogs, as they may not do anything to counter it.

This may include carrying out a lot of physical activities, as they are very bored and find it difficult to pass time.

Since it is their energy levels that get depleted by doing a lot of physical activities, they are unable to achieve an optimal level of stamina.

Insufficient stimulation

Another major cause of obesity in dogs is that they do not get enough stimulation.

A lot of dogs, because of the boring life they lead, tend to get obsessed with food and lose track of their appetite. This, in turn, leads to obesity.

Effects of Obesity On Dogs

Here are some risk factors that put your dog at risk of obesity which is as follows;

Feeding Issues

Dogs that are overweight are not fed enough to lose weight.

They are fed excess in order to meet the different levels of their food allergies.

As well, weight gain often occurs when pets are first introduced to new foods and from mistakes in feeding.

To reduce the chances of this happening, start with different types of food (grains, meats, veggies, and fruits), increase portion sizes gradually to make it less appealing, and increase the frequency of feeding at different times.

Second, you can use a balanced diet with different nutrients, fats, and proteins so that you can ensure your pet gets all of the essential nutrients that they need.

Lastly, provide your dog with a variety of foods at different times so that your dog doesn’t get too hungry.

This also means that you will have to feed your dog more often.


Some dogs are obese, have low energy levels, and are sick more often.

As well, some dogs that are obese may not be able to get comfortable lying down or even stand up due to their obesity.

They may become housebound and require additional support to stand up or walk.

Intestinal Issues

Obesity in dogs can cause intestinal blockages and other issues such as inflammatory bowel disease and pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis can cause pain and difficulty in swallowing, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

It can also make your pet irritable, nervous, and listless.

Obstructive Disorders

Obesity can cause obstructions of your pet’s digestive system which can result in malnutrition and health issues.

Sleep Issues

Sleep issues include restlessness, excessive drooling, itching, overheat,ing and inactivity.

This can all lead to difficulty breathing and chest congestion. The increased weight of the body prevents your pet from lying down or sleeping in an upright position.

This can cause your pet’s breathing to be restricted, making it harder for them to breathe.

It is important to be aware of the risk factors that put your dog at risk of obesity, including the following:


A diet high in carbohydrates or fat can cause obesity in dogs.

If your dog is overweight or obese, it may be because of a diet high in carbohydrates or fat.

Foods high in carbohydrates can trigger insulin resistance, which causes the body to store more fat and lowers its metabolism.

The food energy balance is not well-balanced, so the dog will either not be eating enough food or eating too much food.

A dog with insulin resistance cannot store excess fat as well and may not process carbohydrates well.

Another common culprit of obesity is too much energy consumption. This occurs when the dog eats more energy than the body can use.

Energy intake is increased by eating more food and exercising more.

Dietary habits

A dog should always have a balanced diet of all essential nutrients, including nutrients needed for its body and brain development.

This can be done by feeding the dog the appropriate amount of food and ensuring that it does not become overly hungry or too full.

Diet can also affect a dog’s hormones.

Loss of appetite

An increase in body temperature can cause a dog to lose appetite.

If the dog is looking to lose weight quickly, it can get dehydrated, which can also cause loss of appetite.

It is best to keep the dog properly hydrated by feeding it water or offering it food if it seems to be dehydrated.

Low energy

A low-energy dog may have difficulties getting enough energy from its food, which can make it easier for the dog to gain weight.

The dog may have a lowered metabolism, so it cannot digest the food as quickly.

Excessive chewing

When a dog is overweight, dental disease is more likely to develop.

When teeth are damaged or missing, it is harder for the dog to eat and digest food properly.

Heart disease

A dog with a heart condition may not have a lot of energy to burn.

Overweight dogs may not be able to exercise as much as they should.

This means they may not get enough physical activity, so they may not burn enough calories.

A dog with heart disease may have to give up vigorous walks and may not be able to do as many activity-based activities with its owner.

Weight loss drugs

People often take appetite suppressant medication as a weight loss aid. These drugs may cause weight gain in dogs.

Being overweight can negatively affect a dog’s health, so a person should speak to their vet about weight loss treatment.


Regular physical activity and exercise can help to strengthen the dog’s muscles, allowing it to walk for longer and burn more calories.

Regular exercise and a low-fat diet will help the dog to maintain a healthy weight.

If your dog does have an underactive thyroid, which can be caused by an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise, you should ask your vet for a blood test.

If the thyroid is underactive, it will not produce enough of the hormones that regulate blood glucose levels.

Sometimes a dog will have hyperthyroidism, which is when the thyroid gland produces too many hormones and is found near the thyroid gland.

This condition causes the dog to become extremely hyperactive and keep jumping around. The thyroid is usually treated with medication.

Certain dogs are more prone to getting overweight. If your dog seems to get thinner as it ages, check with your vet for any diet changes that could be making them gain weight.

Dental problems

Your dog’s teeth can cause it to have an underactive thyroid. Your dog’s teeth can cause it to have an underactive thyroid.

Teeth can also cause an underactive thyroid. It is very important that you provide a balanced diet for your dog to help maintain healthy teeth and gums.

Excess chewing, as mentioned above, is a leading cause of tooth decay in dogs.

Some breeds, such as Great Danes and Boston Terriers, have very big and strong teeth that can wear down on their own, without needing treatment.

Problems like this can lead to teeth problems that are much more serious.

An underactive thyroid is responsible for bone health in dogs.

If a dog has an underactive thyroid, the body does not make hormones that can maintain a healthy bone structure.

If a dog loses too much weight, the dog’s bones can break easily, leading to fractures.

If you notice your dog has a dental problem or one of the above symptoms, make an appointment with your vet to get it checked out.

Changes in your dog’s weight

It may seem as if your dog’s weight changes quickly, but, in reality, your dog’s body adjusts to the new weight.

Before you can see a change in your dog’s weight, you must first see a change in its body weight and physical activity levels.

To see a change in your dog’s weight, you must take into account the following things:

  • Food and food habits
  • Sleep and exercise habits
  • Diet
  • Disposition
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Time of the year

Your dog’s weight may not change drastically, even when following a healthy diet and following a consistent exercise program.

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Tips To Prevent Obesity In Your Dog

The best way to prevent obesity in dogs is to cut down on the amount of food that they are fed.

However, you should avoid feeding them so much that they grow very fast and fat.

You should also avoid feeding them too little. Also, you should not allow them to get sedentary all day.

You should make sure that your dog has sufficient exercise.

It is important to ensure that your dog gets enough sleep and physical activity.

Also, it is important that you provide your dog with a healthy diet and allow them to exercise regularly.

Don’t just focus on feeding your dog with kibbles or high carbs, as this can make your dog get obese.

The following weight loss tips will help to maintain a healthy weight.

Calorie counting

Calorie counting is a good way to make sure your dog is not consuming too many calories.

Consider your dog’s current weight and the weight that your dog should weigh based on a set BMI (body mass index) for your dog.

If your dog based on calculations has a BMI of 16-25, it is likely that your dog has a healthy body weight.

You can choose to give (1,200-1,500 calories per day) to your dog based on its weight.

This is the weight that your dog’s body requires to maintain a healthy weight.

Once your dog’s weight falls within this range, add 20 calories per day.


Some pets can become overweight because of the effects of different types of medication.

Always consider or take into account the weight that your pet’s body requires when choosing a weight-loss drug.

Top Breeds of Dogs Affected By Obesity

Toy poodles, Japanese terriers, Dachshunds, and Pomeranians are the most at-risk of obesity.

Some reports also revealed that small breeds (which make up more than half of the population of dogs in the UK) have a greater chance of suffering from obesity.

Bulldogs, Labrador Retrievers, Cavaliers King Charles Spaniels, and Weimaraners were ranked higher for their risk of obesity than large breeds.

Obesity-related Health Problems In Dogs

Here are some risk factors associated with obesity in dogs which are as follows;

  • Bad breath
  • diabetes
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart Disease
  • bone breaks and fractures
  • urinary tract infections
  • swollen abdomen
  • scarring
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Vision problems
  • Muscle deterioration
  • Decreased endurance
  • Weight loss

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