Canine Obesity- Where did we go wrong?

I make no joke about this topic, this topic usually offends so many dog owners because they don’t believe there dog is obese or overweight, but sometimes the truth hurts but ignoring the fact can have a detrimental income long term, now according to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association in their 2019 Obesity Report, when they compiled a survey amongst Veterinary Practices, it came to light that 51% of dogs were documented to be overweight/obese. Shockingly high right? That means if your walking your dog down the street and you see someone else walking their dog, either yours or theirs will be overweight/obese statistically!

Quote taken from the PFMA 2019 Obesity Report:

Obesity is one of the most common diseases
we currently face but it’s a major issue that we
DON’T TALK ABOUT. It’s an uncomfortable topic
wrapped in prejudice and blame.


Did you notice the beautiful photo of the Retriever? Most would say that dog is a healthy weight, but i can see from here that dog is overweight! You can barely see the tuck (Waist) which is an indicator the Dog could do with losing a few pounds (I write this as my own Gut is poking out of my shirt, the irony!)

It doesn’t help the situation, when i watch Crufts on the TV and i see breeds being ruined year in, year out, standards slipping, So much for being the Guardians of the breeds, It saddens me when i see some dogs!

Best Of Breed

Sex: Bitch

It feels like i’m picking on Labradors, but i’m really not however it seems statistically they’re the breed with the highest obesity rates globally, to the point studies have conducted and it’s been found that a gene deletion (Pro-opiomelanocortin *POMC* ) could be behind this, the gene itself is associated with body weight, adiposity and general food motivation when it comes to behaviour.

Even that little insight on to why Labradors maybe prone to obesity, isn’t common knowledge so just because they are acting hungry, doesn’t mean they are!

To me the KC have a very important role of portraying high standards of the breed which included weight management so if a dog is over weight, they shouldn’t win “Best of Breed” it sets the wrong image, now having the above image as an example for an ideal Labrador, Many owners will try and match their dog to that wrong portrayal and this contributes to canine obesity. Don’t get me started on the Pet Food Industry and their “Input” on the issue!

Why are dogs overweight / obese?

There are several aspects of Canine Obesity overlooked by owners but it boils down to three issues:

  • Food Given In Excess
  • Exercise
  • Types of Food Provided (Diet over all)

We nation of dog lovers feed dogs out of love, our love is effectively killing them when it comes to their physiological health, we have all been guilty of this at some point, giving in to those cute puppy dog eyes even though their 10 years old and weigh 35kg but yet they still have you wrapped around their paws!

Many dog owners have their dogs for companionship, they also don’t pick a breed to suit their lifestyle some dog’s are naturally energetic and needs the explosive physical activity, a Husky for example, if they don’t get enough chances are they’ll ruin your house by burning off excess energy while chewing on your door frames (Boredom) , they’ve even been seen to try and escape, my only logic is to exercise themselves!

Many dog owners don’t even exercise their dogs with intent, they simply take them on toilet walks, which can be fine for some breeds/older dogs.

Now you have the overall diet, they say 90% of dog owners are feeding a commercialised pet food either dry or wet based and then that’s usually coupled with table scraps on top (Some use dogs as a waste disposal service) Dogs that do eat a dry food diet can often look overweight, but it’s not necessarily fat, the majority of the time it’s water retention, dogs will retain water they drink when eating dry foods because it’s not available in their food, this is a survival method.

This is why many dog owners who switch for foods that have a higher moisture content notice their dogs losing visual weight quickly , meaning that they don’t look as fat due to their body releasing the water retention as it’s no longer needed.

Health Implications

Dogs being overweight can have so many health implications long term its unreal, let alone increase the risk of diabetes and cancer, now the implications of being overweight differ from breed to breed some minor, some severe. Brachycephalic breed such as the Pug, French Bulldog, English Bulldog etc are seriously effected by excess weight, this is due to them having predisposed breathing difficulties in the first place, so adding more mass to their rib cage and wind pipe isn’t going to do them any good at all, their cardiovascular health also diminishes, which makes it difficult for the cells in bodies to be replenished with oxygen.

With excess weight you also have joint implications as they get older, the risk of arthritis increases along with the risks of Elbow/ Hip Dysplasia, I’ve even witnessed Cruciate ligaments rupturing, which can land you with a hefty bill (£2000-3000). Please insure your dogs! 🙂

I was asking today for guidance on how to help dogs loose weight through their diet, but it’s not so easy to answer as every dog is unique, which we went through in the last blog piece.

So i thought i’d answer on a generic basis when it comes to feeding fresh foods, and for this example i’ll use the everyday pet adult dog

Rule of Thumb Guide.

  • 2% of body weight daily- To Lose Weight
  • 3% of body weight daily- Maintain Weight
  • 4% of body weight daily- To Gain Weight

Now these above ratios are just that, a guide, a mere starting point to give you a little insight, but these ratios are reflective of so many factors in respect of the individual dog and i’ll run through several examples:

Non-food Based Factors

  • Breed
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Intact?
  • Exercise Level
  • Medical Issues (Thyroid)
  • Any Medication?
  • How many times they are fed in a day? (In respect of Intermittent Fasting)

Food Based Factors

  • Proteins being given (Lamb, Chicken , Beef etc)
  • Fats being provided
  • Ground/ Non Ground
  • Fruits/Vegetables being given
  • Ratios of the above
  • Nutrients provided in the above
  • Kcals In the Whole Meal

Basically, the breakdown of the whole meal. Although body weight % feeding is something i’d recommend for all owners to follow that are new to feeding fresh foods, it still falls down to calories in the meal, 200g of Chicken, is less calories than 200g of Lamb, so it’s all about a healthy rotation, as you do this you’ll have an average calorie intake, which it’s that which determines the weight loss, maintenance or gain of your dog.

Adult dogs need between 95-110 kcal per Kg of body weight in order to maintain their weight(MER).

Maintenance energy requirement (MER). Maintenance
energy requirement is the energy required to support
energy equilibrium (where ME Maintenance Energy equals
heat production) over a long period of time.

(Blaxter KL 1989a)) As referenced in the 2019 FEDIAF Guidelines Below

Now do you understand why it’s not that easy to answer when someone asks for tips on how to get their dog to lose weight? This is a generic answer and it’s quite complex for most to understand, i wish it was as easy as get them to move more and eat less…..

I hope you all understood this and now understand why maintaining a healthy body weight is imperative to achieve whole health!


Michael K A Bennett- BCCSDip.HthNut

For Fun:

I found a Dog BMI Calculator, now i’m not to sure how accurate it is, so please let me know the results and send me photo if your dog(s) with the stats you entered! 🙂 Email it to


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