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The Pandemic of Overweight Pets

Who doesn't love giving their pets treats? It builds the human-animal bond and many animals will do almost anything for a yummy treat. I'm not here to tell you to stop giving your pet treats, but like all things they are good in moderation.

Did you know that an estimated 51% of dogs are considered overweight? You may think the dog that looks more like a sausage than a canine is cute, but we know that the extra weight has disastrous effects on their health. A study done by Salt et. al found that the average life expectancy of dogs that were overweight was significantly shorter than dogs who were at an appropriate weight for 12 breeds. The differing life expectancies ranged from 5 months to 2.5 years depending on the breed and sex. I don't know about you, but I would love to add any amount of time onto my dog's lifespan.


Besides lifespan, what other effects does extra weight have on our pets?

Its not only the lifespan that is effected when our pets aren't at an idea weight. Being overweight predisposes them to:

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Endocrinopathies such as diabetes and Cushing's disease

  • Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD)

  • Tracheal collapse

  • Brachycephalic airway syndrome

  • Heat and exercise intolerance

  • Increased anesthetic risk


How to determine whether your dog is at a healthy weight

Your veterinarian likely uses a body condition scoring (BCS) system to keep track of whether your dog is underweight, ideal, or overweight. The systems used most commonly are out of 5 or 9 (view a BCS chart from the WSAVA here). A BCS of 1 is severely underweight meaning we can see the outline of every rib, the entire backbone, and the hips along with muscle loss. In an ideal body condition (BCS 4-5/9), you can easily feel the ribs but usually cannot see them. There should also be an obvious waist present from the top and side of your dog (see picture of Wayne as an example). Body condition scores of 6-9 are overweight and represent dogs that have lost a waist from the side and/or top and you cannot easily feel their ribs. Your veterinarian likely assigns your pet a BCS at each visit. Try to assign a body condition score to your dog and ask your veterinarian what they think at your next visit!


If your veterinarian determines your pet to be not at an ideal weight, ask them what you can do to get them to a healthier weight! Their suggestions may range from cutting back on treats, starting your pet on a weight loss diet, or ensuring they are getting consistent low impact exercise.

Thank you for reading! If you want to learn about any other topics in veterinary medicine feel free to contact us.

Body Condition Score. WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee. (n.d.).

German, A. J. (2006). The growing problem of obesity in dogs and cats. The Journal of Nutrition, 136(7).

McAllister, M., & Varble, D. (2020, January). Overweight pets: let’s talk before the problem gets any bigger. 2020 Veterinary Emerging Topics Report.

New data reveals pet obesity epidemic existed long before quarantine. Banfield Pet Hospital. (n.d.).

Salt, C., Morris, P. J., Wilson, D., Lund, E. M., & German, A. J. (2018). Association between life span and body condition in neutered client‐owned dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

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