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.

Have you seen the new Adoptable Pets page on Care2? Check it out here! Please also share with your friends. We’d love your help in finding homes for these adorable animals!

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


Ellie M
Ellie M8 months ago


Beverly C.
Beverly C4 years ago

Thanks For This Extremely Important Information.

Sandra I.
Sandra I4 years ago

The cats I had growing up we're really fit and they had free dry food but also went outside freely so they were more interested in that than food. I have always only allowed my cats an enclosed outdoor space but now that they have a huge one I see that there is a sudden drop in their free feeding. I think access to a large enough outdoor space means more running and climbing and less eating.

Terry V.
Terry V5 years ago


Sarah A.
Sarah A5 years ago

Thanks for sharing wish many people would read this.

Christine Jones
Christine J5 years ago

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.

Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Despina Vekris
Despina Vekris5 years ago


Robby Reyes
Past Member 5 years ago


Barbara D.
Past Member 5 years ago

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!