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Dangers of Pet Obesity

Dangers of Pet Obesity

I just returned from walking Sanchez and Gina. We passed another Labrador who was at least 75 pounds overweight, without exaggeration. Seeing his stomach practically touching the ground and hearing him pant every few steps broke my heart. His person appeared very caring, but letting his dog get that overweight is not love, it’s abuse, in my opinion. It is our responsibility as dog owners to keep our dogs healthy and fit.

According to The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), an estimated 93 million US dogs and cats are overweight or obese. That means that over half the nation’s dogs and cats are now overweight. This cost pets years of their lives and owners millions of dollars.

APOP reports the following as the primary risks of excess weight in pets:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heart and Respiratory Disease
  • Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injury
  • Kidney Disease
  • Many Forms of Cancer
  • Decreased life expectancy (up to 2.5 years)


How do you know if your dog is overweight?

Apparently, this is not often an easy discussion for veterinarians to have with clients. Loving dog owners often take it personally and are offended when told their dog is overweight. I’m not a veterinarian, but my personal suggestion: If you can’t see a waistline on your pet, they’re overweight. And if you can’t feel ribs (as suggested by Janet Tobiassen Crosby, DVM), you probably can’t see a waistline. One of the reasons that seeing the overweight Lab broke my heart was because I knew his life would be shortened due to obesity. In addition, he clearly wasn’t in good enough shape to enjoy many activities with his person.


Pet Weight Translator

It’s important to realize that five pounds in a large breed dog could be the equivalent to 10 pounds in a human. Five pounds in a small breed dog could be equal to 20 pounds in a human adult. APOP calculates that a 12 pound Yorkie is the same as an average female weighing 218 pounds, and a 14 pound cat is equivalent to a 237 pound man. Did you consider that a 90 pound female Labrador retriever is equal to a 186 pound 5’ 4” female or 217 pound 5’ 9” male, or a fluffy feline that weighs 15 pounds (DSH) is equal to a 218 pound 5’ 4” female or 254 pound 5’ 9” male?

Causes of Pet Obesity

Similar to people, the main causes are a poor diet and overeating. Unlike human adults, dogs are not responsible for their obesity, their people are. If I left out a five pound food for my dogs, I’m quite certain that they would eat all the food in front of them, even after they were full. I give them enough high quality food for them to be satisfied, feed twice a day (as free feeding is another cause of obesity), and keep their amounts consistent. We train daily, so the amount of treats they receive during training are deducted from their mealtime kibble.

How to Keep Fido Fit

Go for quality walks together. If you have a solid recall, find places to hike off leash together. The smells are stimulating for your dog, and the exercise will benefit both of you. Camp Unleashed is a fabulous retreat for dogs and their people. In addition to all the off-leash hikes, you’ll introduce your dog to a variety of new activities and even learn about healthy canine nutrition.

Is your pet fat or fit? If the answer is fit, how do you help keep them that way? Thanks for posting your comment below.

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By Lisa Spector, Canine Music Expert, Juilliard Graduate, and co-creator of Through a Dog’s Ear.

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Lisa Spector

Lisa Spector is a concert pianist, Juilliard graduate, and canine music expert. She is Co-founder of Through a Dog's Ear, the first music clinically demonstrated to calm the canine nervous system. Their new Canine Noise Phobia series is a breakthrough treatment and prevention program for canine noise sensitivities. Lisa shares her home and her heart with her two "career change" Labrador Retrievers from Guide Dogs for the Blind, Sanchez and Gina. Follow Lisa's blog here.


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3:04PM PDT on Apr 14, 2013


8:33AM PST on Feb 11, 2013

Thanks for sharing wish many people would read this.

2:22AM PST on Feb 9, 2013

Wonderful article. One of my dogs was seriously overweight. He is incredibly cute (no that's not just me being biased; he has such a sweet face people still think he's a puppy and he's now 14) and as most people equate food with love, it was hard to not feed him treats. I put everyone on notice that his health needed to improve, I ignored those big brown eyes, and when I wanted to show him love, I took him for a walk. He lost 10 kgs and the difference is amazing. He no longer shows any signs of arthritis, his patella has stopped subluxating (popping out), his coat is glossy, he runs around like a dog half his age. I was very proud when the vet said she'd like to show us both to stubborn owners who just wouldn't slim down their pets. It's now been two years and he's still at the right weight and having a wonderful life. It can be done; it just takes commitment.

9:15AM PST on Feb 6, 2013

thanks for sharing :)

12:37AM PST on Feb 6, 2013


3:30PM PST on Jan 31, 2013


10:24AM PST on Jan 31, 2013

I wish every pet owner would read this and take it to heart. Remember, your pets don't feed themselves - it's your responsibility. The number of overweight pets, some morbidly obese, that we see everyday is astounding!
As we often tell our clients - you're loving your pet to death!

5:30AM PST on Jan 31, 2013

This is a form of killing

12:38AM PST on Jan 31, 2013

Colleen W., I've had the same thing happen to one of my dogs.............he was a neutered male Golden and when I put him outside for exercise (I worked nights and couldn't leave him out while I worked or while I slept due to no fencing and I rented), he would go next door and beg. Of course, the neighbors succumbed to his "cuteness", sitting up and "barking" for stuff (a trick he'd been taught) and they also fed him kibble, thinking he was hungry. He was purebred, and normal weight should not have exceeded 75 lbs or in that ballpark. He got to be 107.8 lbs.! He went on a strict semi-raw food diet and it was hard taking that weight off him and I had to have a serious discussion with the neighbor.

12:34AM PST on Jan 31, 2013

It is also entirely possible that an obese pet suffers from hypo-thyroidism. When a pet is fed as advised by their veterinarian and still becomes obese, that may be the case. It works the other way around as well, and I've had two cats that were HYPER-thyroid and needed medication. One cat did well, the other did not. She (the one that did not) had always been healthy and a good weight until she was about 15. Then she got bone skinny, no matter how much she was fed and how often, how high a quality. She had food available 24/7 and still was thin, but very healthy and active "otherwise", still wanted to hunt and was good at it. She was given "thyroid tablets" orally and they didn't do much, so it resulted in a pharmacy "compounded" version that was administered via "oral syringe" in her ears. She lived another 2 years.

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