Which breed of dog consumes less food?

Obesity in dogs

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According to estimates by experts, almost every second adult dog in Germany is now too fat. Many dog ​​owners do not even notice that their dog is too fat or consider excess weight to be a blemish. From a medical point of view, however, obesity is an independent and serious disease.

In this post, you can learn more about the

of obesity in dogs.

When is a dog considered overweight?

At the latest when a dog is 10% above its ideal weight, it is overweight. For a small dog with an ideal weight of 10 kg, an additional kilo is enough to add to the pathological excess weight.

The difficulty, however, is knowing what the dog's ideal weight would actually be. In contrast to humans, there is no objective formula for dogs such as the body mass index, which can be used to calculate the ideal weight if size and gender are known. The large number of dog breeds with sometimes streamlined, sometimes massive physique prohibits such a calculation.

The only way to get around is to feel the dog and determine its so-called Body Condition Score (BCS).

Roughly speaking, the following applies: a dog whose ribs can be felt under loosely placed hands (but not seen from afar) and who, when viewed from above, has a clear waistline, has a BCS of 3/5 and is therefore ideally weighty.

You can read more about the Body Condition Score in our nutrition information section under "Is my dog ​​too fat?".

If you still know how much your dog weighed at the end of the growth phase, you can usually accept this value as the ideal weight.

Medium-sized dogs are fully grown at around twelve months, very small breeds as early as ten months, while giant breeds sometimes take 18 months or more to reach their final size.


What is Obesity?

Obesity is the medical term for obesity. Some experts describe 10% overweight as beginning obesity and dogs with 15% too much weight on the ribs as obese, others only draw the line between overweight and obesity at 20% weight gain.

Obesity is considered a disease in its own right and also increases the risk of numerous other diseases.

What causes obesity in dogs?

Actually, the answer to this question seems trivial: if a dog takes in more energy than it uses, the excess energy is stored in the form of fat and the dog becomes fat.

In reality, however, obesity has a variety of very complex interrelated causes. Organic as well as behavioral and environmental factors play a role.

Which organic factors favor obesity?

Similar to us humans, there are also individuals in dogs who apparently only need to look at the food and already have a few grams more on their hips, while others fill their bellies and still remain thin. Are the Genes responsible? Apparently it does for some dog breeds. Genetically, they have a lower energy requirement and therefore have to take in fewer calories per day than other breeds. At the same time, however, many of these dogs seem to have a constant appetite and are developing into true vacuum cleaners.

To the Breeds prone to obesity include for example:

  • Labrador Retriever
  • Golden retriever
  • Cocker spaniel
  • collie
  • dachshund
  • beagle

The Age also plays a role in the development of obesity. On the one hand, older animals usually move less, on the other hand, their metabolic rate changes, so that their energy requirements decrease. Puppies that consume too much energy during the growth phase do not initially become fat, but grow faster, but tend to be overweight as adult dogs.

A castration increases the risk of obesity, as neutered dogs tend to eat more than non-neutered dogs and at the same time become calmer, i.e. use less energy. Therefore, your dog should be switched to a lower-calorie food for neutered dogs immediately after neutering (see "Which food is suitable after neutering?").

Since the energy consumption of the organism is influenced by hormones, also lead to different hormonal diseases to obesity, for example:

  • Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
  • Overactive adrenal gland (Cushing's disease)
  • Malfunction of the sex glands

In order to rule out that your dog suffers from any of these diseases, it must be examined by a veterinarian before starting a diet.

Illnesses that make the dog move less lead to a lower energy requirement and thus easily to obesity. For example:

  • Joint diseases such as hip dysplasia, osteoarthritis, etc.
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Respiratory diseases

Some diseases simulate obesity because they cause water retention. This should also be ruled out by a veterinarian.

Certain Medication reduce the energy requirement or increase the appetite and can also be involved in the development of obesity if administered over a longer period of time. For example, cortisone preparations, progesterone preparations (for example to suppress heat) or certain antispasmodic drugs are possible. Therefore, with long-term administration of such medications, it may be necessary to switch to a lower-calorie dog food.

Which behavioral aspects favor obesity?

Some facets of the normal dog behavior make our four-legged friends prone to obesity: On the one hand, dogs, like their ancestors, the wolves, are calibrated to fill their stomachs as soon as they have the opportunity - who knows when there will be something again. On the other hand, food intake plays an important social role for our dogs. They define their status in the dog or family pack to a large extent by what they get to eat from whom and when. Together with our tendency to pamper our beloved four-legged friend with delicacies, this often results in a disastrous combination that, in addition to being overweight, also promotes behavioral problems.

You can read more about the dog's eating behavior and its effects on the human-dog relationship in the nutritional information in the article: The most common mistakes when feeding dogs.

Real Behavior problems or. Behavior disorders are also important causes of obesity. In any case, they must be clarified by a veterinarian and, if present, treated by a specialist in veterinary behavioral therapy. Obesity can be triggered, for example, by:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • Developmental disorders such as abnormal eating behavior or a disturbed feeling of satiety

Behavioral problems can indirectly lead to obesity, e.g. because uncontrollable or aggressive dogs are less common Freedom of movement can enjoy and therefore have a lower energy requirement.

Which external factors promote obesity?

Since our dogs are completely dependent on us and our lifestyle, the most important external factor is very clear: the dog owner.

Whether you live in the city or in the country, like to move around with your dog in nature or not, like to play with him, have a lot of time for your four-legged friend or somehow have to squeeze the dog round into the daily routine ... how much exercise your dog gets and thus how high its energy requirement is.

Whether or not you are willing to invest money in a balanced dog food, enjoy feeding snacks frequently, or not learning about appropriate dog feeding and training ... it has an impact on how many calories your dog eats each day.

Sometimes, however, other "external factors" - for example in the form of the neighbors - play a decisive role in the development of fat pads in your dog. Therefore, of course, these factors must also be included in a diet.

Which feeds promote the development of obesity?

Who does not know: "Actually, I'm already full, but it tastes so delicious ..." Particularly tasty foods tempt us to continue eating, even though the stomach is full, and we eat especially a lot if we keep on eating new delicacies are served. Our dogs feel the same way and, like us, they like high-fat calorie bombs.

Dog food and snacks that our dogs find particularly tasty are those that make you fat particularly quickly and of which they eat more than necessary.

Frequent switching between different types of dog food or snacks promotes obesity, as we always offer the dog new taste stimuli and, as a result, he eats more.

What are the consequences of being overweight for dogs?

In overweight and obese dogs, the percentage of body fat increases from 10-20% to up to 40%. Fat storage cells are filled to the brim with storage fat and new fat cells are created in order to be able to absorb the excess. Fat stores form in the subcutaneous tissue of the trunk, in the chest and abdominal cavity and even in the connective tissue that runs through the internal organs, which can impair their function.

The fat cells don't just store fat, they help regulate the dog's metabolism by releasing hormones and other regulatory factors.

If the body fat percentage rises above the normal value, the metabolic equilibrium shifts, the fat cells and other tissue cells change their functioning and hormonal imbalances arise. As a result, obese dogs, for example, develop one Insulin resistance, a preliminary stage of the Type 2 diabetes, also known as adult diabetes in humans. In these dogs, the blood sugar and insulin levels are elevated because the peripheral tissues respond less well to insulin, which means that it is more difficult for the sugar to move from the blood to the cells that use it as fuel.

In the belly fat of overweight dogs, inflammatory messenger substances and other regulatory factors are increasingly released, which may also contribute to the sequelae of obesity, in particular to the development of arthrosis (Osteoarthritis).

Obesity is an important factor in the development of many diseases and can make existing diseases worse.

For example, it has been scientifically proven that obese dogs are more likely to suffer from the following conditions:

  • Joint wear (osteoarthritis or osteoarthritis)
  • Diabetes (diabetes mellitus)
  • Incontinence in neutered bitches
  • Constipation
  • Skin diseases (dermatitis)
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Respiratory diseases


Since being overweight puts a strain on the circulatory system and changes the distribution and breakdown of anesthetic drugs, overweight dogs have a problem increased risk of anesthesia.

Disturbing adipose tissue can complicate surgical interventions and wound healing disorders are more common, so overall a increased risk during surgical interventions consists.

For many dog ​​owners, these consequences are just as abstract as the consequences of smoking: They tend to be suppressed as long as they have not yet occurred.

But there is another scientifically proven complication of obesity that is not a long-term problem, but is already a problem today: Obesity reduces it enjoyment of life affected dogs! For example, they are significantly less agile and take less part in their environment (more information in the blog entry "Dieting actually makes dogs happier").

Last but not least, being overweight shortens that Life expectancy. Compared to dogs that have been lean throughout their lives, obese dogs die an average of two years earlier.

So give your overweight dog more vitality and health: put him on a diet!

What is the best way to get rid of the excess weight?

Since obesity results from an imbalance between energy intake and energy expenditure, we have two options to address the problem:

  1. We feed our dog fewer calories.
  2. We increase our dog's energy consumption through more exercise.

Both measures are equally important! A suitable exercise program is part of every sensible diet plan.

Since many overweight dogs have other health problems (e.g. their joints), you should have your dog checked out thoroughly by your veterinarian before starting the diet and put together both the diet plan and the exercise program together with your veterinarian.

Putting your own dog on a diet is still a real challenge for most dog owners. You can read how you can bring your dog to the ideal weight in our nutrition information section:

Dr. Hölter wishes good luck!