Obesity is defined as a body weight in excess of 15 percent above normal resulting from an accumulation of fat. It occurs in 25-50 percent of dogs in the United States. Associated health risks include musculoskeletal and cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, hyperlipidemia higher incidences of bladder and mammary cancer possible anesthetic and surgical complications, decreased heat tolerance and stamina and reproductive problems. Obesity occurs when energy intake exceeds energy expenditure and other risk factors are present.

Certain breeds, such as Labrador retriever, cairn terrier, American cocker spaniel, dachshund, basset hound, and beagle as well as females and middle ages animals, have an increased incidence of obesity. Neutering increases the risk of obesity. Dietary factors also play a role. Clinical signs in dogs that are obese have excessive fat accumulation around the neck, over the tail-head, along the underside, and in the abdominal cavity. Obesity may be associated with difficulty moving or breathing, exercise intolerance, urinary, or fecal incontinence, unkempt appearance and pressure sores.

Diagnostic Tests

Dogs are usually tested for hypothyroidism and hyperadrenocorticism. Other tests may be recommended to asses for obesity related diseases in other organs and to search for any underlying risk factors.

Treatment Options

If obesity is associated with hypothyroidism or hyperadrenocorticism, treatment is started for these conditions. Weight reduction programs involve a multistep approach that includes good owner commitment, a feeding plan, and an exercise plan. In order for the animal to lose weight it is necessary for energy expenditure to be greater than energy intake. This is accomplished by increasing exercise and by feeding a diet that is lower in fat and higher in fiber than typical adult dog foods. Weight loss is difficult to achieve in some dogs and requires prolonged dedication and dietary restrictions. Prevention of obesity in growing and adult animals is very important and is often easier to achieve than weight reduction.