Dog Obesity: When it is a Health Concern and How to Avoid the Pet ER?

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Dr. Holly Dutton

Jan 9, 2023

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Is your dog obese, or are you worried that he might be? Obesity in dogs can be very dangerous, and if left untreated, it can contribute to a wide range of health problems in your pet. As a responsible pet owner, it’s important to pay close attention to your pet’s weight and make changes if needed to help him lose weight, too.

Below, we’ll break down more information to help you better understand dog obesity and how to protect your pet from going to the ER. If you suspect your dog is obese, be sure to talk to your vet for some specific recommendations for your pet, too.

When is a Dog Considered Obese?

A dog is considered obese if he weighs at least 20% more than his recommended body weight. This number fluctuates significantly depending on the dog’s breed. For example, a chihuahua’s average weight is five pounds, so a chihuahua would be considered obese at only six pounds. On the other hand, a Great Dane’s average weight is roughly 150 pounds, so this breed would not be considered obese until 165 pounds—or even more, depending on the dog. Male dogs typically weigh more than females in any breed.

If you’re having trouble figuring this out, be sure to talk to your vet for more information. Additionally, if your dog is a mixed breed, your vet can help you figure out his average healthy weight as well.

What Health Problems are Linked with Dog Obesity?

There are health problems associated with a dog being over-weight that could result in a visit to the emergency vet depending on the severity of the symptoms they are experiencing. Listed below are the main ones: 

Heart Disease

Heart disease is one of the most significant problems caused by obesity in dogs. Just like humans, dogs who are obese are at a higher risk of heart trouble. Help keep your dog’s heart healthy and functioning normally by keeping him at a healthy weight.

Joint Issues/Orthopedic Concerns

Joint and mobility issues can occur in dogs who are not obese, and they aren’t limited only to dogs with weight problems. However, obesity can significantly increase a dog’s risk of joint problems like arthritis. Your dog may have trouble moving around comfortably and may be in a lot of pain from arthritis if he is obese.

Another joint concern would be rupture ligaments – these are more likely in obese dogs but also make treatment more difficult as they can not handle their weight when not able to use all their limbs equally. A dog or cat who is diagnosed with diabetes will need to be given insulin injections and will need to be closely monitored by you and your vet for the rest of his life as well as predisposed to severe secondary health conditions.


Diabetes is very common in obese dogs. If your dog stays obese for too long, his risk of diabetes will increase significantly. A dog who is diagnosed with diabetes will need to be given insulin injections and will need to be closely monitored by you and your vet for the rest of his life.

Breathing Difficulty

Dogs who are too overweight may have trouble breathing. This problem can worsen as the dog gets older or gains more weight, and it can become very dangerous if your dog also contracts a respiratory infection or heartworm disease. This is especially true in our short faced or smooshed face breeds who already have difficulty breathing like bull dogs and frenchies. 

How Can You Help an Obese Dog Lose Weight?

If a dog maintains a healthy weight, they are less likely to go to an emergency vet for any of the symptoms listed above. Here are some ways to help your dog lose weight: 


Changing your dog’s diet to something healthier is a good first step in combating his obesity. Pick a food with lots of high-quality, healthy ingredients and choose a blend that is designed specifically for weight loss in pets. Avoid foods that have too many filler ingredients, as these can contribute to weight gain too.


If you give your dog a lot of treats, keep in mind that treats add calories, too. Work them into your dog’s daily caloric intake, or choose treats that are healthy alternatives instead. Baby carrots are a great option for a healthy dog treat.


Exercise is important to help your dog lose weight as well. Keep up with your dog’s exercise routine regularly and make sure he gets enough of a workout depending on his breed type and size. Bigger dogs need more exercise daily than smaller dogs.


If your dog is having a lot of trouble losing weight, you may need to talk to your vet about medication or other alternative solutions. However, this should be a last-ditch effort, and your vet will likely want to try managing the problem in other ways first.

There are health conditions that make it hard for your pet to lose weight like hypothyroid disease – you will want to ensure all of the above are addressed before exploring conditions that will require life long treatment. If you are diligently working on the above concerns and your pet is losing weight that will be a sign that other tests are needed. Be sure to talk this through with your vet.

VEG is Here if Your Dog is Having an Emergency Due to Pet Obesity

Based on this information, it’s easy to see why pet obesity is such a concerning issue. Although you may think your dog looks cute when he’s a little overweight, keep in mind that an overweight dog can quickly become an obese dog without the proper management.

The sooner you get your dog on a healthy diet and an exercise routine, the better his overall health will become. By keeping up with your dog’s weight requirements, they are less likely to visit an emergency vet with complications from joint issues, diabetes, difficulty breathing or heart disease. 

If your dog is having an emergency due to obesity, contact VEG by calling one of our locations. We have locations all over the country that are open 24/7 and our team is ready to guide you and your pet in the right direction. VEG is here for you and your pet.