Dog Breeds Prone to Obesity and How to Reduce Your Pets Calorie Intake

overweight beagle

According to a study published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice in conjunction with the Royal Veterinary College, the eight dog breeds which have higher odds of being overweight are:

  1. Pugs
  2. Beagles
  3. Golden Retrievers
  4. English Springer Spaniels
  5. Border Terriers
  6. Labrador Retrievers
  7. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
  8. Cocker Spaniels

It’s worth noting that there are a number of other factors which the study found to contribute to a dog’s weight. Middle-aged pooches were found to be more likely to be overweight or obese, as well as insured dogs and dogs who had been neutered. However, some factors were found to have little to no effect on weight, including sex and the size of the dog.

How human food impacts our dogs’ diets

One of the potential reasons for the high rates of dog obesity is dog owners treating their pets to human food without knowing how this can impact their diet. In fact, a survey by The Grocer found that a whopping 72% of pet owners admitted to feeding their pets human food. While not all human food is necessarily bad or unsafe for our pets, we often don’t provide them in moderation. This can lead to our pets getting a lot of excess calories without us even realising.

Meat is a common leftover we treat our dogs to which can take up a surprisingly large amount of their daily recommended calorie intake.

Take bacon for example — while you may think two rashers seem like a reasonable portion size, for very small adult dogs, such as chihuahuas or miniature dachshunds, this equates to 58.5% of their daily recommended calories. For small-sized dogs, such as pugs, this portion size equates to a third of their daily calories, and for medium-sized dogs, like beagles, it equates to a fifth. Even for very large dogs weighing 40kg+, such as rottweilers, two rashers of bacon is the equivalent of 8.5% of their daily calorie recommendation.

Read More: Why Can’t Dogs Eat Chocolate?

Sausages and roast chicken are two other human foods which can take up a lot of our pet’s daily calories. One thick sausage, for example, takes up 27% of a small dog’s daily calories, and 16% of a medium dog’s calories, and for large dogs, such as Dalmatians, this portion size equates to 11% of their overall daily calories.

It isn’t just meat which can be highly calorific for our dogs, however. If you have a leftover scrambled egg from your full English, the equivalent of one egg can take up 31% of an extra small dog’s calories, although this comes to just 4% of calories recommended for an extra large dog, such as a Labrador. The lowest calorie human treats on our list is a 10g whipped cream pup cup, although this still takes up just under a tenth of a small dog’s daily calories.

a table of the calories of human food for dogs

What the experts say

Liz Clifton, dog bite prevention educator and rescue dog rehabilitator is unsurprised with the recent increase in dog obesity rates. Liz says she has “noticed that this has increased over the last ten years and especially since lockdown. When families spend less time active outside this flows to their dogs too.“

Why are dogs overweight?

Liz also says that your pet’s upbringing and background may have some bearing on how likely they are to be overweight: “If you adopt a rescue dog, especially an ex-street dog, remember that they will have had to fend for themselves and may be more prone to overeating and obesity. This is because on the streets they would have had to eat whatever they found whenever they found it due to scarcity of and competition for food.”

Observe behaviour

When it comes to helping your pet stay a healthy weight, Liz tells us it’s important to stay observant of not just your pet’s physical health but their behaviour too. You should “take time to notice how your dog is behaving and how freely they are moving. Are they showing any signs of pain or discomfort when they move? Or are they reluctant to move at all? If you find that they are, always get a veterinary opinion.”

Stress can also have an impact on a dog’s weight, Liz tells us: “As with us humans it’s easy for dogs with a high-stress baseline to hold onto excess weight and fall into obesity. So take time to notice how your dog is behaving and if they are showing any signs of stress.”

Some signs of stress that Liz tells pet owners to look out for include “lack of interest in food, water, usually enjoyed activities, or company with you or other members of your family (all species included), as well as excessive licking, howling, whining, sleeping, panting, or regression with toileting habits.”

Read More: Can Dogs Get SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)?

The good news is that there are a number of ways to help your dog relax more to reduce their underlying stress levels. A few suggestions from Liz include “enjoying a snuggle, going for a gentle walk, dog yoga, playing dog calming music, or Reiki.” The dog expert also tells us it’s important to look for an underlying cause of stress to help our pets overcome it and feel calmer. Liz says these stressors could be anything from “physical pain or discomfort, to any recent changes to their environment, family situation, or routine. When in doubt always seek your vet’s advice and remember that there are also holistic vets if you prefer.”

Tips for reducing your pet’s calorie intake

dog looking at sausages on table

Provide them with filling, nutrient-rich meals

Ensuring your dog receives a balanced and nutritious diet isn’t just crucial for maintaining their overall health and well-being, but it can keep them satisfied for longer, which can lead to a reduction of calories consumed. Opt for high-quality dog food that is rich in essential nutrients and is designed to provide satiety. Look for options that include lean proteins, a variety of vegetables, and wholesome grains. If your pet is grain-free, opt for dog foods with an alternative source of carbohydrates, such as chickpeas.

Read More: Dog Food Brands: What to Avoid for Puppies, Seniors, Sensitive and Skin Issues

Find non-food based treats

Rewarding your furry friend doesn’t always have to involve treats high in calories. Consider alternative, non-food-based rewards, such as extra playtime and affection, or even a new toy. Not only will this help reduce your dog’s calorie intake, but it can also enhance the bond between you and your pet. Look for interactive toys that stimulate their mind and keep them engaged without adding extra calories to their diet.

Make exercise fun

Increasing your dog’s physical activity is an effective way to manage their weight and burn calories, however, you may find your pet is less active if they are overweight or obese. So try to make exercise as enjoyable as possible for them by incorporating activities they love. Whether it’s a game of fetch, a brisk walk, or even a swim, find activities that both you and your dog can enjoy together. Regular exercise can also help keep your pet mentally stimulated and have a positive effect on their mental health. Just remember to ease your pet slowly into new forms of physical activity, especially if they are obese, as a major change to their routine can be a big shock to the system. If unsure, ask your vet for advice on the best activities for your pet to try out at the start of their weight loss journey.

Ensure they enjoy everything in moderation

Like humans, dogs can benefit from a balanced and moderate approach to diet and treats. While it’s essential to cut down on excessive treats and high-calorie snacks, completely depriving your dog may lead to cravings or unhealthy behaviours. So make sure you allow them to enjoy the occasional treat, but choose wisely. Opt for low-calorie treats or break larger treats into smaller portions to spread the enjoyment without overindulging.

Remember, you should always speak to a vet before making major dietary adjustments. Weight gain and obesity may be indicators of other conditions, such as hypothyroidism, so your vet may want to rule other factors out before starting your pet on a new diet.

“It’s not surprising that obesity can have such a big impact on a dog’s health, but many of us don’t realise just how many conditions can be linked to having excess weight. From bone health to heart health to simply overall well-being, obesity can come with a huge toll on your pet. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to help your pooch stay a healthy weight, even if they’re on the obesity-prone list! To help your pet lose weight healthily and sustainably, ensure they have filling, balanced meals and enjoy their food in moderation

“Cutting down on human treatment food can also make a big difference. Most of us don’t realise just how calorie-dense our food can be for our pets. This is especially the case for smaller dogs and breeds which are more obesity-prone, such as pugs. For small dogs like these, a single sausage can take up almost half of their daily recommended calorie intake.

“It’s important to note that it’s always a good idea to see a vet if you have concerns about your pet’s weight. Every dog is different, and just like humans, they all have different nutritional needs. Whether your furry friend is a puppy or fully grown, consult with the vet before making major dietary changes.”– Lisa Melvin, Pet Range

Click here for the full research and methodology.