Obesity in Animals
written by Dr. Melissa Rotella, DVM


Innis is a 7 year old male Golden Retriever. He is neutered. Innis currently weighs 88 pounds. However, a few short years ago, he was approaching 120 pounds. Innis was obese!!

Obesity is defined as an increase in body weight beyond the limitation of skeletal and physical requirements. As in the human population, animals of any age, breed, or sex can become overweight. However, there are some breeds that seem to be at an increased risk: Labradors, Dachshunds, Beagles, Basset Hounds, and Golden Retrievers, just to mention a few.

There are serious health risks for overweight animals. Overall, they have a reduced life expectancy and are at increased risk for diabetes, joint problems, tracheal collapse, skin and heart disease. Therefore, routine wellness blood work and urinalysis are always important diagnostics in any overweight patient. It is also important to note that there are some diseases and medications that can make weight gain more likely. Hypothyroid disease is a common endocrine disease that can lead to weight gain. Once the underlying illness is treated, weight loss becomes an easier task.

One major way to decrease the chance of pet obesity in your household is to know what to look for. A body condition score (BCS) is a measurement scale that most veterinarians use to classify the degree of obesity. The BCS is a five point system with 3 being the ideal weight to body type ratio. A body condition score of 5 (obese) is classified as: difficulty feeling ribs under thick fat cover and no waist evident when viewed from the side or above.

Obesity treatment is aimed at weight reduction and risk-factor avoidance. There are a wide variety of reduced fat or low calorie foods now available for pets. Your veterinarian can help choose the appropriate one for your pet. Decreasing the amount of treats your dog or cat gets, along with choosing healthy options such as baby carrots or snap peas, are just a few helpful tips. As with human health, exercise also becomes an important aspect of any diet plan. If your pet can tolerate it comfortably, your pet should be encouraged to be active for 30 minutes each day. This can range from walking, hiking, playing fetch, or even swimming. It is important to have regular follow ups with your veterinarian so that progress can be monitored and any changes to the diet or exercise adjusted. With time and dedication, weight loss is possible and your pet will lead a healthier, happier life!!