Canine Obesity ~ And How to Avoid Your Dog Passing Away Before It’s Time

When we think of malnutrition, we often think of a skinny dog with terrible skin.

There are many forms of malnutrition – however one of the most common and, underdiagnosed forms, is actually over nutrition in the form Canine Obesity.

In a scientific study done by Australian Vets where 2,661 dogs were surveyed, 41.1% were reported to be either overweight or obese. In separate scientific studies scientists have shown that dogs fed less and kept at a healthy weight lived on average, 2 years longer than their overweight littermates.

People are simply not aware that they are inadvertently sending their dogs to doggy heaven well before their time. The amount of food given to dogs is unfortunately beyond the dogs’ control. Dogs are also the ones who will develop painful and debilitating diseases due to the excess food we give them.

Overweight dogs are much more likely to get diseases like:

•   Diabetes

•   High cholesterol

•   Arthritis

•   Heart Disease

And many overweight dogs have conditions including:

  • Breathing difficulties, especially during and after exercise.
  • Heat intolerance. Overweight dogs can, and do, easily die of heat exhaustion, especially in warmer climates and during the hot summers.
  • Gastrointestinal problems resulting from too much food in the digestive tract and no time to rest the stomach.
  • Decreased Immune response. Overweight dogs are more susceptible to sickness and disease, particularly viral infections.
  • Joint, Bone and spinal issues due to the excessive weight which causes damage.
  • Irritability as a result of their discomfort.

Not only do all these diminish your dog’s quality of life, we now know they likely decrease the length of life.

Health Risks for Overweight & Obese Dogs

Contributing Factors

One contributing factor is the feeding guidelines on the dog food bags. All recommend feeding twice per day and recommend a certain amount per dog. None talk about the importance of changing the food portion size to match the dog’s condition. Every dog is different and different activity levels of individual dogs means they need different amounts of food even if they are the same weight. A sedentary 18 kg English Bulldog will NOT need as much energy/food as an active 18kg Working Sheepdog.

As a dog owners you may to consider changing portion size to match your dog’s condition. If your dog is too thin you need to feed more. If your dog is too fat then you need to feed less. It’s really that simple.

Owner guilt is another contributing factor. As dog owners, we sometimes feel guilty for not spending quality time with them or for not sparing a moment to walk them so they can get ample exercise. We sometimes compensate for this guilt by overfeeding or giving them treats. This is ok, if your dog is at the correct weight and its not all the time.

Our dogs don’t help either, with continual begging. After all, their natural instincts are towards finding and eating food, anytime and anywhere.

I think my dog’s condition is healthy…

Fact is 80% of dog owners believe their dog is at its correct weight. But studies show that 41% of dogs are overweight. This tells us most of the people with overweight dogs don’t even realise their dog is overweight. Chances are you are among the many who are mistaken.

The reason being our perception of what a “healthy” body shape is has been blurred. Particularly when identifying overweight body shapes. This cultural shift of what is a healthy body shape conflicts with the clinical definition of a “healthy” body shape.

Won’t my vet let me know if my dog is overweight?

You would hope so. However, many vets won’t bring up the obesity topic because many pet owners get offended or defensive.

This means it’s up to you to ask your vet if your dog is overweight.

So how do I check if my dog is overweight?

There are many ways to check you dog’s condition. The first one is by weighing. This method is only helpful when you have a reference weight. This you may find in breed information (bear in mind that will be general and not specific to your dogs size) and by discussing with your vet or small animal nutritionalist.

The other way is by simply looking and seeing if the shape of your dog is correct. I like to see a definite waistline. You can compare your dog to this chart below.

Weight Guide for dogs

If your dog has a thick coat covering then the best way to check the condition is to feel your dog. Run your hands down the back and the sides of your dog. If you don’t feel any ribs or a waste line, chances are your dog is overweight.

If your dog is overweight, you need to know this,

It’s Not Your Fault. However… 

Now That You Are Aware Of This Issue,

It Is Your Responsibility… Fair?

The good news is that once you are aware your dog is overweight; you can make easy steps to get the weight off your dog.

And the GREAT news is that once the weight is off, all the related problems will be alleviated and may even disappear. Meaning you can give your dog the healthy life it deserves.


  1. Prevalence of obesity in dogs examined by Australian veterinary practices and the risk factors involved
  2. Effects of diet restriction on life span and age-related changes in dogs
  3. Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association- Pet Obesity, Reality in 2009

Robert Belobrajdic

Robert Belobrajdic has been a dog breeder for over 15 years and a dog lover for much longer. He has extensive experience with working dogs and has also showed dogs on occasions. He is now passionately working towards educating dog owners about dog care and developing 'Stay Loyal'.

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