An obese dog lying on the floor looking sad.

Obesity May Be a Disease

The number of overweight and obese U.S. dogs continued to inch upward through 2018, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. During the association’s most recent installment of its annual clinical survey, 56 percent of dogs seen by veterinarians were classified as overweight or obese, compared to 53.8 percent of dogs in 2015 and 43 percent of dogs in 2007, the first year of the survey.

That makes obesity the number one health threat to our pets and means portly pooches are the new normal.

According to, some veterinarians believe it’s time to officially recognize pet obesity as a disease. In fact, a group of veterinarians is working on a proposal that defines pet obesity from a medical viewpoint, includes a standardized body condition scoring system and creates a list of best practices for treating obese patients and advising pet parents.

Is obesity a disease?

Whether or not obesity is a disease depends on who you ask. Several human-health-related organizations — the American Medical Association (AMA), American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, American Heart Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, National Institutes of Health, Obesity Society and others — have classified human obesity as a disease. Not everyone agrees with the designation, however, and there’s been vigorous debate over it for more than a decade. Categorizing human obesity as a disease has brought new attention to and increased conversations around this chronic condition that has reached epidemic levels. It’s hoped that a similar response — increased awareness and acceptance of the need to diagnose and treat pet obesity — will result from having obesity considered a disease in veterinary medicine.

Pet obesity is a serious problem

It’s well accepted in veterinary medicine that excess weight puts dogs at greater risk for some diseases or disorders such as insulin resistance (decreased sensitivity to insulin), arthritis, decreased lifespan and certain types of cancer. So even if obesity isn’t classified as a disease, it’s assuredly a condition that can seriously and negatively impact your canine companion’s health.

RELATED POST: How Extra Weight Affects Your Dog’s Lifestyle

The good news is that obesity can be avoided and, if your dog is already overweight, weight loss can help improve your best furever friend’s health. What and how much food you feed are among the most important things you can do to help your dog live a long, healthy life, and our pets depend on us to make good choices for them. Be sure to talk with your veterinarian about your dog’s weight, food and strategies for keeping them at a healthy body condition.

RELATED POST: Why Are Our Dogs Getting Fatter?

The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.


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