Obesity in dogs: causes, symptoms and solutions

Concerned about your dog’s weight? You're not alone. As our veterinary nurse Charlotte mentioned in this video, nearly half of the UK dog population is now classified as 'overweight'.

Can you identify the signs of obesity in dogs? Are you looking for advice on keeping your dog fit, happy and at a healthy weight? Wotcha! You're in the right place. Here at Grub Club, we're passionate about good diets and tip top pet health. We share what you can do as a pet owner, to keep your four-legged friend a lean, mean, barking machine. 

Just like humans, dogs carrying excess weight can lead to health and mobility issues which may limit their lifespan and lead to increased medical bills – something we could all do without right now. Let’s delve into the solutions…

What are the signs and symptoms of obesity in dogs?

As a rule of thumb, dogs are considered 'overweight' when they weigh 10-20% more than their ideal body weight.

Dogs are considered 'obese' when they weigh 20% or more than their ideal body weight.

Another way to determine whether your dog is overweight or obese is to look at what your breed of dog should typically look like. This can usually be found in dog breed books or with a quick Google search. Breed-related Facebook groups can also be very helpful (and a great way of making new friends!).  

Of course, not every dog will adhere to their breed’s standard body shape (height, length, cross breed features) but you should be able to get a good idea of an ideal weight from some of the images that crop up. This helpful dog breed weight chart is also a handy resource to refer to.

In general, if your dog is obese you will notice that:

  • You can’t feel your dog’s ribs
  • They have a rounded tummy
  • They are wide
  • They have a rounded face
  • They are slow on their walks
  • They pant more easily than before or more than other dogs you see
  • They tire more quickly than before
  • They lack motivation

What is the main cause of obesity in dogs?

The main cause of obesity is simply due to the fact that your dog is not getting enough exercise paired with overfeeding (treats, snacks, table scraps/leftovers). Other factors that can come into play include medical problems, breeding, type of breed (some breeds hold more fat than others) and neutering.

How can I reduce my dog’s obesity?

Before taking any drastic measures to your dog's diet, we suggest booking a visit to your vet for a full health check. They will be able to advise on any possible medical issues, heart health, their lung capacity and breathing, how their joints are functioning and will also give you some pointers on where to begin.

In the majority of cases, the first steps in reducing weight loss will need to be small and gradual in order to help your dog to fight the fat in both a healthy and safe way.


Make sure that your dog's food is nutritionally complete. This means it provides them with all of the necessary nutrients their body requires to survive (and thrive!).

Take some time to read the dietary advice on the packaging and measure out the recommended daily amount. If you haven’t been following the instructions, this could well be the reason for your dog's weight gain.

The feeding guide for Grub Club's All-Day Buffet is displayed below.


Increasing the length of your dog's walk or the amount of movement they do during their walk is also a good starting point. Begin by upping the pace of the walk. If you were doing a slow stroll, take this to a brisk walk that will increase their heart rate.

Once your dog becomes used to this change in pace your next move could be to take a ball out with you and see if they can up their movement even more with a little game of fetch. Always keep a close eye on how they are coping with this and stop if you are concerned about their breathing or their legs.

Another great yet low-impact form of exercise is swimming. This is perfect for older dogs and those with arthritis or joint issues. The water helps to take their weight but they are still getting that exercise into the day that they require. As your dog’s fitness levels increase you will soon be able to go for longer walks, maybe even a jog.

Other things to be really conscious of are:

  • Saying no when they are begging for food
  • Reducing treats
  • Refuse to give table scraps
  • Stop any scavenging when on walks
  • Ask other dog walkers not to provide treats (we know they always have them in their pockets!)
  • Provide plenty of fresh water – hunger pangs can be linked to dehydration
  • Distract them from looking for food with play and interaction

Why is my dog overweight when they don’t eat much?

If your dog has had the all clear from your vet and there are no underlying health issues linked to their obesity and they really don’t eat very much then it may well be time to re-evaluate what you are feeding them.

Dog diets that are rich in protein and fibre but are low in fat are ideal for weight loss. Other positive ingredients to look for are antioxidant-rich blueberries and pomegranates that help to boost immune health plus prebiotics that will help to promote digestive goodness (just like the ingredients our All-Day Buffet Complete Dog Food is made from).

With the perfect nutritional combo, you will be providing your dog with the energy they require to be more active. If you do change their diet, remember to do this gradually over the course of a 7-10 days to prevent any stomach upsets.

What to mix with dog food for weight loss

You can also add in some extra veggies such as carrots, green beans, broccoli and asparagus to give them an extra energy boost without adding any extra weight. However, do try to avoid starchy foods such as pasta or bread.

Fun ways to keep your dog in shape

One of the main reasons many of us choose to have a dog as a pet is because it is rewarding. Dogs are fun characters, they are entertaining and energetic, always keeping us on our toes so it is fitting that exercise, games and play should all involve these qualities too. Some of our top ways for keeping your dog active include:

  • Running and jogging
  • Fetch
  • Football
  • Frisbee
  • Swimming
  • Long hikes
  • Hide and seek
  • Go find
  • Puzzle games such as kongs, treat balls, snuffle mat
  • Training
  • Agility
  • Fly ball
  • Dog parks to run around with other pooches
  • Tug of war

By incorporating a healthier outlook for your dog you could in turn be making some positive changes in your own daily habits too. Healthy dog, healthy owner, what could be more perfect?!

We know you can feel guilt-ridden acknowledging that your dog is obese but by making just a few changes in their lifestyle you will be helping their overall wellbeing and altering those obesity in dogs stats for the better.