Obesity in Dogs


Diagnosis In-depth

Your veterinarian will want to determine the cause of your dog’s obesity before deciding upon treatment. Diagnostic tests that your veterinarian may wish to perform include:

  • A thorough physical examination, including an accurate measure of body weight and an assessment of body condition score.
  • Assessment of your dog’s current daily intake of all food, treats, snacks, table foods and exercise schedule.
  • Routine blood work including a complete blood cell count, serum profile and urinalysis. If the results are normal, obesity is probably the result of excessive caloric intake and decreased energy expenditure. However, if the results of these routine tests indicate a potential problem, additional tests are warranted to specifically identify the condition.Additional diagnostic tests may include:
  • Blood and urine glucose (sugar) levels. Diabetes mellitus can be diagnosed based upon detecting high blood glucose level and the positive detection of glucose in the urine. Sometimes a series of blood glucose measurements are needed to confirm the diagnosis.
  • Urine cortisol:creatinine ratio. Hyperadenocorticism should be suspected when the ratio is high.
  • ACTH stimulation test. An adrenocorticotrophic hormone stimulation test is used to better diagnose hyperadenocorticism.
  • Low dose dexamethasone test. This test, used in concert with the urine cortisol:creatinine ratio and an ACTH stimulation test, yields a definitive diagnosis of hyperadenocorticism.


Treatment In-depth

Therapy recommendations are dependent upon the underlying cause of the obesity. Take your dog to your veterinarian for a complete work-up before beginning a weight loss program to rule out major diseases.

Recommendations for obesity due to excessive caloric consumption:

  • Lower your pet’s daily caloric intake by 50 percent of that required for his ideal body weight.
  • Change the pet food product to one designed for weight loss and containing:- less than 340 kcal per 100 grams of food on a dry matter basis

    – between 5 to 10 percent fat

    – between 10 to 30 percent crude fiber

    – greater than 25 percent crude protein

  • Feed your pet a prescribed measured amount of food several times daily.
  • Give treats only as directed. Use specifically designed low calorie treats or give cooked or raw vegetables.
  • Increase exercise activity
  • Try getting your pet to swim. Swimming is excellent exercise for patients with orthopedic disabilities.
  • Return to your veterinarian for monthly visits for a weight check and appropriate adjustments in meal size.Recommendations for obesity due to diabetes mellitus:
  • Often in the management of diabetes, a dietary change to a veterinary therapeutic diet is necessary for controlling blood glucose levels. The food should contain a moderate level of fiber (5 to 10 percent) with lowered levels of readily available carbohydrates.
  • Insulin treatments are individualized to the patient.
  • In some cases of diabetes, when the dog loses weight, the clinical signs of diabetes resolve and occasionally insulin treatments are no longer needed.Recommendations for obesity due to hyperadenocorticism:
  • Medical management usually involves initial treatments and maintenance doses of Lysodren┬« (mitotane). Recheck visits are recommended with an ACTH test every 3 to 4 months.
  • In most cases, a weight loss program is not needed to return to an ideal body weight.


The primary causes of obesity in dogs are overeating and lack of exercise. When regular caloric intake exceeds the energy burned, the excess is stored as fat on your dog.


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