The High Cost of Having an Overweight Dog

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We are killing our dogs and paying tons of money to do so.

Yes, you read that right.  Are you willing to gamble with your pet’s longevity and health by allowing them to be overweight?

Having an overweight dog is costly:

  • To the dog’s lifespan: lean dogs will live on average almost two years longer than their fat litter mates.  You can read about the landmark study here.
  • To the dog’s quality of life: fit and trim dogs will lead a more active life, and have less pain and disease.
  • To the owner’s wallet: owners of fat pets are spending a lot of money that they might otherwise not spend if their pet was fit and trim.  In the U.S. alone, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention , there are about 37 million overweight dogs. We estimate that the owners of these overweight dogs are spending somewhere near $8 billion dollars each year, on extra food, medical care, and medicines, all because they have fat pets. For context, a stack of 1 billion $1 dollar bills would measure about 68 miles high.  A stack of 8 billion dollars would reach  550 miles long, approximately the driving distance from New York City to Fort Bragg North Carolina!


Pet Obesity is a Human Problem

Pet obesity is actually a human problem, not a pet problem.  Most dogs that I know do not have opposable thumbs to open the fridge and serve themselves.  Nor do they go shopping for their own food.  It is the human who controls the quantity and quality of their food.  We are the stewards of our pet’s health and collectively, we are failing them.   Obesity is arguably the biggest health threat to our pets.  Yet, pet obesity is entirely, and easily preventable in most cases.  Too many dog owners equate food to love.  Too many dog owners don’t take the time to learn about proper servings, food quality, and proper exercise.  Still, the health related problems associated with an overweight dog are too serious to ignore.


Health related problems associated with an overweight dog

There are many health issues that are correlated with overweight pets.  These include:

  • Shorter life spans
  • Arthritis and other orthopedic problems and the associated pain that comes from these conditions
  • High blood pressure and cardiovascular disease
  • Some forms of cancer
  • Kidney disease


That is a scary list, and I don’t know a single pet owner who would feel good about themselves if they were to unwittingly facilitate the development of these and other  conditions by letting their pet become overweight.


Financial cost of having an overweight pet

Having an overweight pet can also cost a lot of money.  Just as heart disease and other health problems are more common in people who are overweight or obese, these diseases are also more common in overweight pets. The extra cost of veterinary care, medications, and of course, pet food for an overweight pet can add up quickly.

For example:

According to, the cost of a vet appointment and physical examination, which can vary widely depending on your geographic location and your veterinarian, averages $45-$55 and more for the visit (not including treatments).


New York Times article reports that the treatment for arthritis and cruciate ligament tears, which can be caused by the strain of an overweight and out-of-shape frame, especially in dogs, cost pet owners an average of $2,000 and higher.


Medicine costs can range between $15-$200 and higher.  One common drug used to treat arthritis symptoms is Rimadyl.  Rimadyl, a commonly prescribed pain and anti-inflammatory NSAID, can cost $50 per month for a 50 lb. dog assuming the standard dosage of 2 mgs per day per lb of bodyweight.


The average annual cost of veterinary care for a diabetic dog or cat in 2011 was more than $900, according to Petplan USA, a pet insurance company.


The fact that more than half of all dogs in the US are overweight or obese means that we are overfeeding.  This also costs money.  A dog that is 10 lbs overweight is being fed, on average, around 70 extra cans of food each year (assuming an average can size of 13 ounces and that the calorie content is 300 per cup).  This can translate to $70-$200 per year depending on the food brand that is being used.

Adding these all up, it is easy to see how an overweight dog can mean an ‘underweight wallet’! Understanding the huge costs of having an overweight dog is only the first step in keeping your dog fit and healthy. Dog owners need to change the way they think about their pet’s body condition and how they feed and exercise their dog. In the second part of this post, we will provide tips to help you make sure that your dog achieves and maintains a healthy weight.


Last week we wrapped up the winter edition of K9Kamp. You may remember we had a great giveaway and we are happy to announce the winner of the prize package is Kelly T. Congratulations Kelly – we will be contacting you to get your mailing info so we can send your prizes!

FitDog Friday


Please enjoy our FitDog Friday Blog Hop brought to you by SlimDoggy and our co-hosts Peggy’s Pet Place and To Dog With Love. Join the Hop or just enjoy the links below – lots of fun fitness tips and advice!


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  1. Dogs are expensive enough as it is! I can’t imagine all that added cost. This post is a great, to the point statement and if it doesn’t convince people to slim down their dogs what will?
    Bethany recently posted…Fit Dogs Weigh InMy Profile

  2. Hi Y’all!

    I like the idea of livin’ a long life…what about you?

    Y’all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog
    Hawk aka BrownDog recently posted…Fitness Fun!My Profile

  3. All good reasons to keep your dog trim. I want Mr. N to live a long healthy life that’s fufilling. And he’s expensive enough as it is!
    That’s one of my concerns with adopting out Onyxx. He had a bad knee so he has to be kept trim but he’s determined to eat everything. He will beg and try to steal food so his future owners have to maintain strict control.

  4. So true for dogs and humans! We control the outcome….
    Kathryn Durno recently posted…Wordless Wednesday – WestminsterMy Profile

  5. The problem of being overweight and accepting it seems to be the cultural norm these days for people and their pets. “Just a little” overweight is no longer seen as an issue but that is where it all starts. As you know, it makes us nuts! We want to be fit and healthy, it makes us feel better and be happier too!
    emma recently posted…A “Grand” Outing | GBGV | FitDog FridayMy Profile

  6. I agree with you. 100%. One of our Huskies was overweight as we adopted her. We really need years to manage that problem. I think to overfeed a dog (or a cat) is not really a sign of love.
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog WICKED WEDNESDAYMy Profile

  7. extremely good info today guys!
    So glad you shared this today. It is such an important topic, and I dont think people realize just how serious it is to our pets health. I have met so many people and their dogs that simply claim that their overweight dog is “healthy” when really its obese!
    I have even had people tell me that my huskies are underweight!!! Which they are definitely not!
    Huskies are slim to begin with, and mine are in great shape!
    ((husky hugz))
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Parading close upsMy Profile

  8. We learned from experience. Even though Kelly wasn’t horribly overweight, she had some borderline health issues. When her weight improved, so did those health issues.
    Peggy Frezon recently posted…FitDog Friday – What the heck is Skijoring?My Profile

  9. Congrats to the winner. Good information. I know this winter it has been a real challenge to get in enough exercise to maintain weight.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Blowing The WhistleMy Profile

  10. I just brought Callie and Shadow to the vet this morning for a weight check because I thought Shadow looked like she’s GAINING weight. I was right. Since Jan. 22nd, she has GAINED 1.2 lbs even though she is eating the same amount of food as Callie and getting a little MORE exercise. (Callie LOST 1.9 lbs in this same 1-month period!) I made an appointment to bring Shadow in to talk to the vet next Tuesday. I’m thinking it may be time for a complete thyroid panel to be done.
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky’s Mom recently posted…Just DuckyMy Profile

    • Don’t forget age plays a factor too just as in humans. But get the check and let us know how it goes.
      mkob recently posted…The High Cost of Having an Overweight DogMy Profile

      • If Callie weren’t 6 months older than Shadow. I would probably pass it off as age-related. BUT Callie had the same weight issues 2 years ago that Shadow’s having now and thyroid medication has stabilized her weight (except when I inadvertently “starved” her with the food change).
        Sue recently posted…Just DuckyMy Profile

  11. Maybe you can answer a question for me and please forgive me if it is ignorance on my part as we feed raw. BUT when we did feed Kibble I fed based on what the dog food bag recommended. So my question is, how accurate is that recommended feeding table on the bags of dog food?
    Jodi recently posted…Follow Up Friday – February 28, 2014My Profile

    • Good question Jodi.

      The feeding recommendations on most dog foods are not going to work. The reason is that they are too general and don’t take into account your dog’s specific situation. Plus they don’t account for treats, people food, injury/illness down time, and the like.

      This is one reason why we created our iPhone app and the soon to be released web based tool.
      steve recently posted…The High Cost of Having an Overweight DogMy Profile

  12. Great post, we often tell owners of pets at the clinic the bigger the animal the bigger the bills. Goes along with large breed dogs and of course over weight dogs and cats. Nice to see you point out such great reasons why one should focus on keeping their animals fit. I used to free feed my cats and they always had a big dish to eat out of, they never did get over weight but I really don’t want to try that theory with MK so I am feeding her small amounts a couple times a day.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…FitDog Friday~Exercise In The SnowMy Profile

    • Love that expression “the bigger the animal the bigger the bills”. Our version:

      “The fatter the pet, the slimmer the wallet”!
      steve recently posted…The High Cost of Having an Overweight DogMy Profile

  13. Very thoughtful post. An overweight dog usually makes for an unhappy dog, too. I know I don’t feel comfortable whenever I gain a few extra pounds. For a dog it’s worse because having 1 extra pound is like having 10 extra pounds!
    Nailah Bone recently posted…FitDog Friday – Herding the Garden Hose: Nailah’s Love/Hate Relationship with waterMy Profile

    • Really good point. I do think that dog’s feel ‘unhappy’ if they are overweight. I also KNOW that they feel great during and after exercise. Research shows that they get a form of runner’s high (endocannabinnoids at work!). Just like humans. No wonder a well exercised dog is a well behaved dog.
      steve recently posted…The High Cost of Having an Overweight DogMy Profile

  14. Those are some amazing statistics. All the more reason for me to get those extra few pounds off of Bruce.
    Rebekah recently posted…Recent Raw Meals and PrepMy Profile

  15. I really love this post. It’s so true that too many people equate feeding to love when it comes to their pets. Obesity really is the number one problem (or cause of other problems!) I see in practice. Thank you for helping to spread the message 🙂
    Joanna recently posted…My Reactive RoverMy Profile

  16. Well said… and if you want your dog to love you, take him/her for a walk rather than giving a treat!

    Unfortunately, the converse is not true. We keep ours skinny (our Labs are 56 and 48 lbs) but they still have some veterinary issues. I wish that being skinny could guard against everything!!!
    KB recently posted…R can Run!!!!My Profile

  17. Great post! I don’t think people realize the monetary and health costs of overfeeding! Thanks for hosting this hop!
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Rope Toys for Fun & FitnessMy Profile

  18. One thing that I had to accept is that Sydney was overweight because of me; she didn’t get her own snacks or make her own food. Now that she’s 72# I feel badly that I let her get to 92#.

    I do pay a lot for our dogs, but that’s because we have 4 dogs. I’m okay with spending money to keep them healthy instead of spending money to keep them alive.

    Thanks for sharing this post.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…Buy a Keep the Tail Wagging Tee and Save a Dog’s LifeMy Profile

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