Canine Obesity: Why does it matter

Shanna Stichler

A few months ago, I took Diamond, my 8-year-old German Shepherd guide dog, to the vet, like you do. We were just there to update her vaccinations or something routine, but of course Diamond had to get up on the scale, and I realized she’d, well, gotten kind of fluffy since our last visit. It’s especially important for working dogs to maintain that sleek figure, but companion dogs should maintain a healthy weight also.

Why should my dog’s weight matter?

Just like with humans, obesity in dogs is on the rise. Around 56% of our best furry friends are either overweight or obese. We know dogs don’t have body image issues, which is great, but they often develop the same kinds of health problems as their human counterparts…not so great.  Such health issues include, but are not limited to, joint problems like arthritis and hip dysplasia, Diabetes, various heart and lung conditions, and Pancreatitis. It can also be riskier to operate on obese dogs because they have more trouble dealing with anesthesia.

What causes canine obesity?

Well, mostly, the reasons our dogs gain weight are pretty straightforward. Overfeeding is a big one. Most of our dogs also don’t get enough exercise, especially during the winter months. A few other causes of weight gain in dogs include hormonal imbalances, medication side effects, genetics, and aging. Aging slows down a dog’s metabolism, just like it does in humans. If you are unsure of the reason behind your pup’s “fluffiness,” consult your vet for assistance.

How can I keep my dog healthy and fit?

Talk to your vet about the ideal amount of food your pup should get each day. Pro tip, the guidelines on the dog food bags are not usually accurate because every dog is different. Don’t just fill up a giant bowl of food for your dog and let him eat as much as he wants. Many dogs will eat the whole thing and then beg for more. It’s kind of like when we human struggle to make room for just one more dessert. Speaking of human food, we all know dogs love table scraps, but dog food has all the nutrition they need, so keep people food to a minimum. Better yet, eliminate it from your pup’s diet altogether. Aside from being really fattening, feeding dogs our leftovers can encourage bad habits like begging.

We all love giving our dogs treats but try to give them in moderation. Check the calorie count on your dog treat label to make sure Fido isn’t getting hundreds of calories in extra treats each day. This may seem ridiculous, but it can happen. Personally, I try to break my dog’s treats into small pieces to use when she’s training or working with me. She does get larger treats to chew, but I only give her one a day because they are higher in calories and a rule of thumb is that treats should only be 10% of their total daily calories. Diamond has a pretty high metabolism, and she skips meals a couple times a week, so I can be more flexible if I know she didn’t eat her breakfast. So basically, make sure to monitor your pup’s eating habits and over all food intake.   Go to  and use the calorie counter to get an estimate on how many calories your dog should  eat.

Finally, try and keep your dog on a regular exercise program. Daily walks or games of fetch are Diamond’s favorite ways to keep active. Other things to try are doggie daycare, swimming if you can find a pool, and taking your pup to a training class.

What can I do if I know my dog is overweight?

First, consult with your veterinarian about the best weight loss program for your dog’s physique. He or she can let you know how much your dog needs to lose and help you get your pup to her ideal weight. They may suggest low-cal dog foods, low-fat treat options, or let you know how much exercise your furry friend should get. Most vets will let you bring your dog in to get weighed for free, so it’s a good idea to do that once a week to ensure you and your canine companion are on the right track


We know that canine obesity might not seem all that important right now but keeping your pup lean can save you quite a bit of money over time. Plus, healthy dogs are happier and live longer. So really, what do we have to lose?  If you are unsure if your dog is overweight, go to and determine your dog’s BCS (Body Conditioning Score) and follow the Slim Paws Weight Loss Solution Program to keep your pet happy and healthy.  

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