The Other Health Problems Associated with Dog Obesity


It is well documented that healthy weight dogs can live longer than obese dogs. (1–3This is because, in part, dogs of healthy weight are less likely to develop problems that would affect their longevity and quality of life. Let’s look at what some of these problems are and why we want to prevent them.

Osteoarthritis in Dogs

As animals age, it is natural for joint disease like osteoarthritis to develop from years of usage. Osteoarthritis can lead to discomfort and limits mobility, affecting the dog’s ability to enjoy their daily walks and games of fetch. Excess weight puts additional strain on the joints in the legs and the vertebrae, leading to the earlier development and exacerbation of osteoarthritis and intervertebral disc disease (slipped disc). (1,4) Overweight dogs also require treatments for joint disease earlier than lean dogs. (1) This is significant because osteoarthritis and back pain negatively affect dog’s quality of life and this is a common reason why pet parents elect euthanasia. (5) Osteoarthritis also exacerbates existing obesity because a painful dog is less likely to be active, worsening its weight problem.

Insulin & Blood Sugar in Dogs

Obesity affects how dogs regulate their blood sugar, specifically how their body reacts to insulin. (6) Insulin is the hormone that helps regulate blood sugar. Studies of obese dogs have demonstrated that obese dogs develop insulin resistance (the body is not as sensitive to insulin), and weight loss can improve insulin sensitivity and improve blood sugar regulation. The insulin resistance may be due to chronic, low-grade inflammation secondary to obesity. (6) While obesity has not been shown to be as causative of canine diabetes as it is for humans and cats, being overweight has been reported as a risk factors for dogs to develop diabetes. (7) 

Blood Fat & Pancreatitis in Dogs

Obesity is associated with hypertriglyceridemia (elevated blood fat levels), which is a risk factor for developing pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), and seizures. (8,9) Pancreatitis can cause nausea, vomiting, and decreased appetite. In severe cases, pancreatitis can lead to acute shock, which is life threatening. Seizures may require life-long therapy, and can be dangerous if they are uncontrolled or take place when the dogs are in a dangerous location (by the stairs, or near a body of water, etc.)

UTI in Dogs

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) have been reported to be more common in obese dogs. (10) UTIs can be uncomfortable for dogs and cause undesired urinary accidents, and in some cases they may lead to kidney infections, or formation of bladder stones that require surgery to remove. (11)

Inflammation in Dogs

It is important to note that fat tissues are not inactive. Fat tissues actively releases hormones that can increase the inflammation in the body. This puts the body at a state of chronic inflammation, and has been associated with the increase the risk of cancer in humans. (12) While this is not as well documented in dogs, some canine cancers have been associated with obesity. (13)

Dog Weight Loss is Paramount

With all the problems that are associated with obesity, it is not hard to see the importance of keeping dogs at a healthy, lean weight. While it may seem like simply feeding less food is the solution, what we want to achieve with healthy weight loss is to restrict calories without restricting essential nutrients. Most over-the counter dog diets are meant for “maintenance”, which means they are designed to feed to adult dogs at the recommended feeding amounts to maintain their weight. Simply feeding less of those food will also decrease the amount of nutrients that the dog receives. Breed Science Weight Loss Formulas are designed by board certified veterinary nutritionists to be fortified in nutrients while allowing for the needed caloric restriction to help dogs achieve a healthy weight. Weight loss programs are unique to the individual dog - get started by taking the weight loss quiz



References: (with links)

1. Kealy RD, Lawler DF, Ballam JM, et al. Effects of diet restriction on life span and age-related changes in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2002;220(9):1315-1320. doi:10.2460/javma.2002.220.1315

2. Lawler DF, Larson BT, Ballam JM, et al. Diet restriction and ageing in the dog: major observations over two decades. Br J Nutr. 2008;99(4):793-805. doi:10.1017/S0007114507871686

3. Salt C, Morris PJ, Wilson D, Lund EM, German AJ. Association between life span and body condition in neutered client-owned dogs. J Vet Intern Med. 2019;33(1):89-99. doi:10.1111/jvim.15367

4. Kealy RD, Lawler DF, Ballam JM, et al. Evaluation of the effect of limited food consumption on radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2000;217(11):1678-1680. doi:10.2460/javma.2000.217.1678

5. Spitznagel MB, Patrick K, Gober MW, et al. Relationships among owner consideration of euthanasia, caregiver burden, and treatment satisfaction in canine osteoarthritis. Vet J. 2022;286:105868. doi:10.1016/j.tvjl.2022.105868

6. Brunetto MA, Sá FC, Nogueira SP, et al. The intravenous glucose tolerance and postprandial glucose tests may present different responses in the evaluation of obese dogs. Br J Nutr. 2011;106 Suppl 1:S194-197. doi:10.1017/S0007114511000870

7. Pöppl AG, de Carvalho GLC, Vivian IF, Corbellini LG, González FHD. Canine diabetes mellitus risk factors: A matched case-control study. Res Vet Sci. 2017;114:469-473. doi:10.1016/j.rvsc.2017.08.003

8. Verkest K r., Fleeman L m., Morton J m., et al. Association of Postprandial Serum Triglyceride Concentration and Serum Canine Pancreatic Lipase Immunoreactivity in Overweight and Obese Dogs. J Vet Intern Med. 2012;26(1):46-53. doi:10.1111/j.1939-1676.2011.00844.x

9. Xenoulis PG, Steiner JM. Lipid metabolism and hyperlipidemia in dogs. Vet J. 2010;183(1):12-21. doi:10.1016/j.tvjl.2008.10.011

10. Wynn SG, Witzel AL, Bartges JW, Moyers TS, Kirk CA. Prevalence of asymptomatic urinary tract infections in morbidly obese dogs. PeerJ. 2016;4:e1711. doi:10.7717/peerj.1711

11. Lulich JP, Berent AC, Adams LG, Westropp JL, Bartges JW, Osborne CA. ACVIM Small Animal Consensus Recommendations on the Treatment and Prevention of Uroliths in Dogs and Cats. J Vet Intern Med. 2016;30(5):1564-1574. doi:10.1111/jvim.14559

12. Ellulu MS, Patimah I, Khaza’ai H, Rahmat A, Abed Y. Obesity and inflammation: the linking mechanism and the complications. Arch Med Sci AMS. 2017;13(4):851-863. doi:10.5114/aoms.2016.58928

13. Glickman LT, Schofer FS, McKee LJ, Reif JS, Goldschmidt MH. Epidemiologic study of insecticide exposures, obesity, and risk of bladder cancer in household dogs. J Toxicol Environ Health. 1989;28(4):407-414. doi:10.1080/15287398909531360