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Health Risks Faced by Overweight Dogs

Carrying just a few extra pounds can significantly affect your dog's health and longevity. Not only that, weight gain can be a sign of a serious underlying health condition. Today our Clemmons vets explain how to tell if your dog is overweight, and what to do.

Why does it matter if my dog is overweight?

Do you think that your pup might be overweight? If so, then it's time to head to the vet for a checkup. Your veterinarian will weigh your pooch, perform a thorough examination to determine your pup's overall health, then let you know if your dog is overweight based on their build and breed standards.

Excess weight can be a contributing factor to many serious and painful conditions in dogs. That's why it's so important to help your dog maintain a healthy weight for their breed and build.

If your dog is overweight they face an increased risk of many health conditions including:

  • A number of different cancers
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Heart disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Osteoarthritis and accelerated joint deterioration
  • Urinary bladder stones
  • Complications from surgery

Why is my dog gaining weight?

There are a number of reasons why your dog may be heavier than they should be to achieve optimal health. We have listed some of the most common causes of canine obesity below:

Too Much Food

  • Your dog's caloric and nutritional needs change dramatically throughout their lifetime. Because of these natural changes to your dogs needs, it is essential to adjust your dog's portion size as well as the food your serve them whenever they move to a different stage of life. Your vet can calculate your dog's approximate caloric needs and provide sound advice on which foods will best meet your pup's nutritional needs, whatever stage of life your pooch is at.

Lack of Exercise

  • Dogs of different breeds and ages require varying amounts of exercise. While some dogs can stay slim and healthy on just a couple of walks each day, others require hours of vigorous exercise. Choosing the right breed to match your own energy level is the best idea. But if you have a much lower exercise tolerance level than your dogs there are a few tricks you can try including heading to the off-leash dog park so your pup can run and play with other dogs, doggy daycare with a large play area for dogs to enjoy, or hiring a local dog walker to take your pooch out for regular long walks.

Genetic Predisposition

  • Any dog has the potential to gain weight and become obese but certain breeds appear to be predisposed to weight gain including Labrador Retrievers, Dachshunds, Beagles, and Cocker Spaniels. If you have a dog that is predisposed to gaining weight, begin monitoring your pet's weight when they are young and speak to your vet about controlling your pup's weight. It is far easier to keep the weight off in the first place than to try and reduce your pup's weight later.


  • As with people, some medications used to treat disease in dogs can lead to weight gain. Speak to your vet if you notice that your pup suddenly begins gaining weight after beginning a new prescription.


  • A common cause of weight gain in dogs is the thyroid disease hypothyroidism. As well as weight gain, other symptoms common to dogs with this condition include lack of energy, dull coat, and oily skin. Contact your vet right away if you think that your pup may be suffering from hypothyroidism. 

Cushing's Disease

  • Cushing's is an endocrine disorder that can cause your pup's hormones to become imbalanced, leading to a sudden increase of weight around the abdomen. If your dog suddenly gains weight contact your vet to schedule an examination for your four-legged friend.

How can I tell if my dog is overweight?

If you aren't sure whether a trip to the vet is called for, here are some signs that will give you a good indication of whether or not your dog is carrying extra weight.

If your pooch is a healthy weight you should be able to feel their ribs without a thick layer of fat over them. Your dog's chest should be wider than their abdomen, and there will be a noticeable tuck-up from chest to stomach about where their waist should be (see illustration below).

Dogs that are overweight will generally have no visible waistline and no distinction between the chest and stomach when viewed side-on. Overweight dogs often pant even when walking relatively slowly, and may walk slower or need to take more naps than before.

Overweight dog chart, Clemmons vets

How to Help Your Dog Lose Weight

Weight gain can be a symptom of a serious underlying illness, so if you think that your dog is overweight a trip to the vet is definitely called for. If your vet determines that your pooch is overweight and there are no underlying illnesses causing the weight gain, they will prescribe a diet and exercise plan to help get your pooch back on track.

Here are a few things you can do to help your furry friend shed those extra pounds.

Regular Exercise

  • Keep to a regular exercise schedule for your dog, including going for walks twice a day and playtime outside once a day. Playing fetch or frisbee can help you and your dog to form a closer bond as well as provide your pooch with a fun way to burn a few extra calories.

Diet & Feeding

  • Your veterinarian can calculate just the right number of calories to feed your dog at each meal, and prescribe a low calorie diet food to help your pup. Make sure your dog eats at the same time every day, and that you measure out the portions carefully based on the ideal weight for their breed (or size).

Yearly (or Twice-Yearly) Wellness Checks

  • Even when you're sure that there is nothing wrong with your pup, take your dog to the vet every year for a routine wellness exam. Annual or twice-yearly wellness exams allow your veterinarian to monitor your pet's weight and spot the early signs of illness so that conditions can be treated before they become more serious.

If your dog begins following a weight loss plan, visit your vet for follow-up appointments so that your pet's progress can be monitored and dietary adjustments made if necessary

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you think that your dog is carrying a little more weight than they should? Contact Animal Hospital of Clemmons today to book an examination for your furry friend. 

An overweight golden retriever on a gravel path waiting to go for a walk | Clemmons Vet

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