by Lara Shannon

Despite how much we love our canine companions, over 40% of dogs in Australia, close to 50% in the UK and an estimated 53% in the US are considered overweight or obese. So, it seems that many pet owners are either unaware (or in denial) that their dog is overweight, or they don’t realise the severity of the health implications that carrying extra weight can have on their dog.

Obesity puts your dog at great risk of other diseases including osteoarthritis, cancer, joint, heart, kidney, liver and pancreatic disease. They will also suffer from greater levels of fatigue, discomfort and reduced mobility, leading to a lower quality of life.

If that isn’t enough to make you take a feel of your furry buddy’s rib cage to see how they are faring, the following information might:

New research from the University of Liverpool and MarsPetcare’s WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition reveals that overweight dogs had a lifespan two-and-a-half years shorter when compared to ideal-weight dogs. When you consider that the average lifespan for a large dog is just 8 years and a small dog 11 years, this is a very sobering fact.


Why our pets become overweight

It can be hard for many people to ignore pleading eyes at the dinner table, not to mention how tough it can be to stop a toddler or children littering the floor with tasty morsels. My mum and dad’s dog, Joe, has perfected the beg whenever they have food near, which has earned him some extra kilos and a much slower gait, which I noticed on my last visit home. Needless to say, a daughter-to-parent lecture ensued and a strict diet regime was implemented, so I know first-hand how hard it can be for owners not to cave in.

The most common causes of the obesity epidemic in dogs are an improper diet and/or an insufficient amount of exercise. However, as I explained to my parents, what might seem like just a tiny bit to us adds up throughout the day and you could actually be feeding the equivalent of a whole extra meal for your pet without even realising! It is estimated that feeding your dog one little cookie, for example, is the equivalent of the average-size woman eating an entire hamburger!

Dog treat translator

Too many unhealthy snacks can add up fast! A cookie or a piece of cheese may seem like a little treat but it’s a whole meal for some dogs.

Let’s look at a few examples using a 9kg dog as the example and the calorie equivalent compared to an average sized adult woman.

One little cookie for the dog would be the same as the women eating a whole cheese burger!

Likewise, 1 28g piece of cheese would equal 1 ½ cheeseburgers and one average sized sausage would be the equivalent of 2 ½ cheeseburgers.


Is your pet overweight?

Your vet is the best person to assess your pet’s weight. As there is a large natural variation between breeds of dogs and cats, they use a Body Condition Score, as well as actual body weight to assess them. If you need some help at home on determining what your dog’s ribs should feel like, The Knuckle Test can help.

Slow and Steady is the Key

You may think that simply feeding your dog less will make him slim down, but it is important that you do talk to your vet so that they can help you work out a slow and steady weight-loss plan without jeopardising your dog’s health.

Take a closer look at the type of pet food your dog is eating so you can ensure your dog is getting all of the essential proteins and nutrients they need, without the high-calorie fillers or a high-fat content.This is especially important if your dog has a slow metabolism or is not getting enough exercise.

Weigh him every 3–4 weeks and keep a record of the weight.Regular weigh-ins, regardless of whether your dog is overweight or not, can help you keep track of any movement in your dog’s weight.

About the Author – Lara Shannon

A certified dog behaviourist and trainer, Lara is the Executive Producer and Host of Pooches at Play on Channel 10 and editor of

As a passionate animal welfare advocate, Lara has been the spokesperson for organisations including the World Wide Fund for Nature, Planet Ark, Keep Australia Beautiful and is the Ambassador for Second Chance Animal Rescue.  

Lara has been a regular on Australian TV screens and radio for over 20 years and in between her TV show and dog training commitments, Lara is still regularly featured in the media and can also be seen presenting on stage at pet expos, seminars and events throughout the year with her cheeky rescue dog ‘Dynamite Darcy’ by her side.  

Eat, Play, Love Your Dog’ is the ultimate guide for dog owners and was released by Hardie Grant Publishing in June and is available nationally where all good books are sold, PETstock and online at Pooches at Play.

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