Pet Obesity: The Cost of Having an Overweight Dog

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National Pet Obesity Awareness Day was created by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) to help raise awareness of both the seriousness of and pervasiveness of the pet obesity problem we have in the U.S. It also provides the perfect opportunity to highlight the substantial financial cost to owners with overweight pets.


If a much shorter and lower quality life for your dog is not reason enough to change the way you feed and exercise your pet, perhaps the realization of how costly it can be to have an overweight dog will be the impetus to change your behavior.


As we have reported previously, pet obesity is a major problem in the U.S.   According to the 2013 APOP survey, almost 53% of dogs and 58% of cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Perhaps even worse, 17% of all dogs are considered obese. Studies in some other countries, like the United Kingdom, show that this problem exists globally as well.

The Financial Costs of Having an Overweight Pet
In 2009, researchers at the Michigan State veterinary hospital conducted a study to determine the annual treatment costs associated with common canine and feline diseases and disorders. The results for dogs are shown in the Table below.

Annual Costs of Common Canine Diseases

Annual Veterinary Treatment Costs, Canine Diseases
Disorder/Disease Average Cost
Heart disease $1,912
Hypertension $1,700
Osteoarthritis $1,656
Cancer $2,447
Diabetes $1,108
Pancreatitis $1,422
Obesity + ruptured ACL $2,367
Chronic kidney disease $1,823

See our post at for the costs for cats.

The cost to treat a dog with any one of these disorders is obviously significant. Because these are estimated annual costs, a pet’s total treatment costs over a lifetime could easily exceed $10,000 depending on the disease and age at diagnosis. Even worse, an overweight pet might develop multiple diseases due to their weight problem raising the treatment costs even higher.


An overweight pet is more susceptible to many diseases and orthopedic disorders. In fact, virtually all of the conditions listed above are more likely to occur in overweight pets than in properly weighing pets. According to APOP, the primary risks of overweight pets include:

  • Heart and Respiratory Disease
  • High Blood Pressure (hypertension)
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Many Forms of Cancer
  • Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes
  • Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injury (ACL)
  • Kidney Disease
  • Decreased life expectancy (up to 2.5 years)


Although pancreatitis is not on the APOP list, overweight pets have a higher risk factor for this than do healthy weight pets.


In 2011 alone, pet insurance claims for diabetes increased by 253 percent, according to Petplan USA, a pet insurance company. Claims for heart disease and arthritis rose by 32 percent and by 348 percent respectively. The fatter our pets get, the more prevalent are the associated diseases.


Steps to Keep your Pet Lean and Healthy

The decisions that you make about your pet’s food are the most important factors that will determine if your pet is overweight or not. First and foremost is how much you feed your pet. Overfeeding, pouring too much food and neglecting to take into account treats, is the single biggest driver of the pet obesity problem. (For more details on how to determine how much to feed your pet, read How Much Should I Feed my Dog)


Secondly, feeding your pet appropriate and high quality food will ensure that your pet is provided a balanced diet, free of fillers and potentially harmful artificial additives.   The tips below will help you develop a food strategy that will keep your pet trim and healthy.


  • Consult with your veterinarian to come up with a health assessment and target weight for your pet.
  • Learn how many calories your pet needs each day. Your pet’s daily calorie requirement is primarily dependent on their size and level of activity.
  • Learn how many calories are in your pet’s foods and treats. Portion accordingly. The feeding instructions on most food labels are too general and not always appropriate for a specific pet.
  • Understand the ingredients in your pet’s foods and how they might impact the protein to fat ratio in the food and avoid foods with unhealthy fillers or artificial additives. Most normal dogs and cats require a diet that is high in protein and fat. Unfortunately, many pet foods are high in carbohydrates. Also, many pet foods are laden with fillers or artificial additives that at best, provide little nutritional value and at worst, could be potentially harmful to your pet.
  • Add moderate to high intensity exercise if possible each week. Although not directly related to the food decision, exercising your pet regularly is an important aspect of their overall health and body condition. Mix in higher intensity exercises once or twice a week if your pet is approved to do so by your vet. The higher intensity sessions can boost their daily calorie burn and also provide many other benefits to their body and mind.
  • Observe your pet’s body condition and tweak your plan over time.


However you do it, make it a priority to keep your dog at the proper weight. Just think, a little discipline around your pet food and feeding regime can end up saving you lots of money in vet and medicine costs, while possibly extending your dog’s life by as much as 10-20%.


Can you really afford to have an overweight dog?


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  1. Many owners of overweight dogs are overweight themselves (but that is a whole different can of dog food), so add the human cost in too, and it is ridiculous. Staying at the right weight is not that hard and so much healthier and cheaper!
    Emma recently posted…My 2 Favorite Benefits Of Walking #DogWalkingWeekMy Profile

  2. Wow! This is quite shocking, but I have to say I’m guilty of overstuffing my pup. I guess there’s no better time than now to start being healthier together!
    Toni recently posted…Fun Quotes About DogsMy Profile

  3. Can you do an article for people? *sigh*
    Flea recently posted…Wheezer Stick GiveawayMy Profile

  4. Great post! Mom is a little on the obsessive when it comes to our weight, we just grin and bear it! BOL!
    Miley’s Daily Scoop recently posted…Pumpkin Dog BonesMy Profile

  5. wow! Interesting and unreal findings!!! just wow!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…5 reasons to adopt a shelter dogMy Profile

  6. No matter how you look at it, the cost – financial, emotional, quality of life – is too high. Great stats that everyone should take a look at as a reminder.

  7. Scary stats!
    Misaki recently posted…New fenceMy Profile

  8. Definitely an eye-opening post. Thanks.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…BFTB Channel 7 NETWoof News 10/07/2014My Profile

  9. Such a good article. Have to say, I’m more careful about my dogs’ diets and weight than I am my own! lol These days Rosie is on a diet and I’m working to get some weight ON Rudy. Jeffie? Just making sure he doesn’t get too many treats.
    Sue recently posted…Grandma Lucys Organic Dog Treats from | Product ReviewMy Profile

  10. It all makes perfect sense, the same way it does for humans. The stats are sad, but when you look around you see so many overweight people as well, so I suppose it’s not that surprising. Keep up the good work of spreading the word!
    Jan K recently posted…Tuesday’s Tails – Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog (or Two) MonthMy Profile

  11. The stats are super sad. The cases that really confuse me are the humans who carefully monitor their own weights but have heavy dogs. I’ve seen several of those cases recently.

    If one more person tells me that my dogs are too skinny, I’m going to blow my stack (it happened again yesterday). The person had an overweight Lab. I wish that I could make people like that read your blog!

  12. I’m constantly on my toes with my 3 — Callie’s at a perfect weight but has just torn the ACL in her left knee, so trying to keep her from making it worse. Shadow’s a little overweight but manageable with some exercise. And Ducky is just about 1-2 lbs more than the vet would like so watching the calories since she gets plenty of exercise most days.
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky\\\’s Mom recently posted…WTF?! DuckyMy Profile

  13. It breaks my heart to see a severely overweight dog or cat. Most of us know how much worse we feel when we put on a few extra pounds but these health and cost statistics are staggering. The issue for a lot of pet owners is that they can’t say no to those sweet, loving eyes when their pet begs for food or treats.

    One way I’ve cut down on Haley’s calories is to give her just a tiny bite of food or break treats into small pieces and just give one little piece. I really don’t think she senses the difference between a tiny bite or a big bite as long as she gets a little something.
    Elaine recently posted…Getting Your Dog’s AttentionMy Profile

  14. Very interesting that ACL tears and cancer were so close on cost. We have this conversation over and over with overweight animals and their is only a handful of people that listen to us and actually attempt to do something about it.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Wordless Wednesday~Some Privacy Please!My Profile

  15. The sad thing is that so many owners don’t seem to know their dog is overweight. I’ve heard so many people tell me that their dog is just ‘thick’ or ‘muscular’ when that’s clearly not the case.
    It’s Dog or Nothing recently posted…SpoiledMy Profile

  16. Such sad statistics, and as others have pointed out what’s really sad is that people seem unable to recognize what a healthy weight for a dog actually is. People make a lot of comments when I’m out with Laika – people have told me that she’s underweight – which is far from true. You can feel her ribs, sure, but she’s not underweight. You make a great point – and one that will really stick out – when you bring up the financial costs. That seems to be a real motivator for people, so hopefully dog owners will become more conscientious about what/how much they’re feeding their dogs.
    Jen Gabbard recently posted…Do Dogs Love Waiting In Cars?My Profile

  17. Just like us humans, it’s best to stay fit and spend your money on something fun! Take little steps for and with your pet, then feel a sense of accomplishment when goals are met.

  18. Hey guys, quick heads up that I can’t comment on today’s (Thursday) post for some reason. Just me?

  19. Weight is always a struggle…lol.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Wordless Wednesday–Tree MazeMy Profile

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