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How Can I Help My Overweight Dog From Suffering From Obesity?

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

How to help a fat dog get healthy.

How to help a fat dog get healthy.

My Dog Is Fat: Obesity Is a Problem for Dogs

Would it bother you to learn that your fat dog is going to die soon?

If you are heartless, it may not, but for many of us, our dogs are like our children. Besides an early death, we need to know that many of our dogs' last days may be spent fighting off health problems. An obese dog may develop diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, liver problems, or even a skin disease where nasty fungi grow in the folds of her fat. All overweight dogs have a hard time dealing with heatwaves and have more problems if they need to undergo anesthesia for dental problems.

An obese dog will not be able to participate in dog sports, not want to frolic around the house, and will finally have problems breathing even as she lies around. Is that what you want to condemn her to? According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), obesity is now the most common nutritional disorder in dogs.

One study done by the AVMA showed dogs fed a restricted-calorie diet lived two years longer than overweight dogs, and the diseases of old age did not occur until much later in life. In an obesity study done in the UK, 21% of the dogs were considered obese and only 13% lean; Labradors were the dog breed most likely to be obese.

Obese dogs suffer and then die young.

Obese dogs suffer and then die young.

How Do I Start Her Weight-Loss Program?

If you have already let your dog become overweight, the answer is probably not going to be as simple as a weight-loss drug like slentrol. Studies have shown that most obese dogs are on the same diet as normal dogs, so even before changing the diet, you need to work on these two important issues in your dog´s life.

1. Provide Plenty of Exercise

This should be together, which is good for both of you, or you can let her do things like dig for bones and toys buried in your yard. Most dogs are like people, and if they are in the backyard will just lay around, so it will be better for her if you get up and take her out for a walk. (Be careful of the heat. Fat dogs can´t walk as far and get overheated fast and, if she is also one of the flat-faced breeds like a Pug or Bulldog, overheating is even more likely.)

If your obese dog has already developed arthritis, swimming is an exercise that is easy on the joints. You might need to call around local dog clubs and rescue organizations to find a pool that accepts dogs for special swim times.

2. Teach Her Tricks With Plenty of Movements

There are plenty of sites where you can learn tricks, and there are books available on and other locations. Teaching her tricks like “spin” will burn up calories, and the tricks she performs do not need to be rewarded with treats. You both can have some fun with the weight loss program!

If you need a treat while teaching tricks, you can use boiled egg whites, chopped up into small cubes. They are pure protein and low in calories.

Diet and exercise are important elements of any weight-loss program for dogs.

Diet and exercise are important elements of any weight-loss program for dogs.

Other Ways to Help

3. Feed a Low-Calorie Diet

A balanced homemade diet is ideal, but I understand not everyone is willing to spend the time taking care of their dog. If you are, use more lean ingredients and less fat; you can control the exact amount of fat intake and give your dog what she needs.

If you do not have the will or time for making a diet at home, you should at least be able to closely watch your dog´s calorie intake. No dog, even a Labrador that will eat almost anything, should be overweight. I have heard clients complain, “If we don´t feed her more, she will scrounge around and find things.”

Dogs are scavengers; it does not matter how much you feed them—most of them will find things to eat.

If you do choose to feed a commercial weight-loss ration, you need to feed less of it than recommended and monitor your dog´s weight loss. Another study by the AVMA showed that dogs actually gained weight on the commercial weight reduction diets when fed at the suggested amounts.

4. Don’t Bother Putting Her on a Fad Diet

Yes, there are plenty of fad diets available now for obese dogs! You need to remember that your dog did not gain the weight quickly, and she is not going to lose it quickly. A good diet with plenty of exercise will help her to lose weight steadily. There are not nearly as many fad diets for dogs as there are for people, but every once in a while, someone will come up with something new.

Don’t bother.

Stick to her regular diet, and things will improve.

5. Keep Track of Her Weight Loss

Weight loss should be gradual and if you do not monitor her weight at the beginning and every week thereafter, you might become discouraged. Keep track every few weeks so that you keep up with the program.

Fat dogs are not able to get around and often develop arthritis when still quite young, making them even less likely to get around.

Fat dogs are not able to get around and often develop arthritis when still quite young, making them even less likely to get around.

The best part about putting your dog on a weight control program can be the benefits for both of you. You can both be healthier, thinner, and live longer.

Get started now!

Home Remedies for Arthritis Pain in Dogs

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: My dog is a Bernese mountain dog mix, and she is so overweight that she can barely stand up. I’m just a child, and my parents seem not to care. What should I do?

Answer: Explain to your parents that your dog is going to die even sooner if they do not get her to shed some of that excess weight. Try to convince them to use some of the weight loss suggestions in this article, and ask them to help your dog by reading

Question: I’m not sure how to help my dog lose weight. Can you help?

Answer: The article lists several essential steps you need to take to get your dog to lose weight. If you need more tips, please refer to this article: There are tips and details on how many calories are used with each type of activity.


mark schuette on August 18, 2014:

news item: high drive dog exercise and CONTROL

offering unlimited dog exercise under excellent dog control

much safer and thus more fun than any other wheeled device- and a new urban mushing sport !


of course its NOT the only way to exercise your dog- just one great way- and part of the mix.

any chance of a link, news item ?

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 13, 2012:

At least they can't buy Big Gulps and Supersize their meals! Dog owners can really get a hanlde on this. Thanks for voting on this issue.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on July 13, 2012:

It's unfortunate that America's national epidemic for people has now been transferred to its dogs. Hopefully, dog owners will read this hub and take appropriate steps to make their pets healthier. Voting this Up and Useful.


DoItForHer on July 07, 2012:

She is not an active person, but I give her kudos for engaging the dog a lot. The border collie/lab mix probably could use more exercise, but couldn't most of us? My hairy pot-belly is a testament to that!

Most of the time I hold little hope that owners will make the necessary changes, but this one is doing better than average. Makes me happy to see that.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 07, 2012:

It sounds like the dog needs a LOT of exercise. They can eat like NCAA football players as long as they burn it all up, like your dogs on their off leash walks. Too bad not all of them get out for that.

DoItForHer on July 07, 2012:

One of my insurance agents has a 50 pound dog. As we were talking, she mentioned that her extremely cute dog is overweight. I asked how much she feeds it, and she said FOUR cups of food a day. Well, duh! We had a good laugh about that. The dog is now being fed a more suitable amount and is losing weight.

wetnosedogs from Alabama on July 06, 2012:

Dr. Mark,

I am definitely aware and wish I just put up uneaten food sooner. I know she didn't gain weight overnight, but I sure got a good look at that wide body of hers one day and as my allergy dog has restrictions, so does my greedy girl now. I know she and the other dogs are not starving. I know Jenny thinks she is starving. But we have worked out our little arguments-ha-ha and she is working down the weight. She is more prone to her hunting skills outside and I caught her arguing with Roscoe over a bird. I know she got the bird and Roscoe just wanted to get a doggy whiff. Neither one got the poor bird, I did, in a trash bag. Poor doggies, they must think I am so mean sometimes.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 06, 2012:

One of the problems with obesity (and I do not want to hurt any Lab owners´ feelings) is that a lot of people, especially owners of that big breed from Canada, deny that their dog is overweight. They certainly love to overeat! I´m glad to hear you are aware of the problem.

wetnosedogs from Alabama on July 06, 2012:

My youngest dog is part lab and she is greedy. She gained weight cause she can't stand to see the other dog bowls left with food in them. I started putting up the bowls and I do see a gradual weight loss. She definitely gets her exercise. So I am hoping just putting up uneaten portions helps with the greedy girls' weight problem.