Exercising Overweight Dogs – 9 Top Exercise Tips For Reducing Weight

In this article, we are going to look at exercising overweight dogs.

Chubby dogs are prevalent in the UK and often carry a host of additional health conditions that can shorten their lifespan. Obesity is known to be the single largest risk factor for type 2 diabetes in dogs.

Also, it increases liver disease, pancreatitis, orthopaedic problems, osteoarthritis, respiratory issues, reproductive health issues and thyroid disease. Did you know the average life expectancy for an obese dog is four years shorter than that of a healthy weight canine?

Losing weight can decrease the risk of developing these health problems, so treating obesity is often a priority. There are many ways that pet owners can help their pets lose weight with diet and exercise alone or in combination with other therapies. Still, it’s important to realize that you must follow through with the plan to be effective.

Below we will look at some ways to get the weight off fat dogs using simple exercise methods anyone can try!

Always check with your vet before starting any exercise program for your overweight pooch.

Causes of Obesity in Adult Dogs

There are many different causes of obesity in dogs, some of which can be prevented while others cannot. Animal owners can better prevent their pets from becoming obese by learning about the causes and what they can do to help manage them.

Overfeeding

This is one of the most common reasons for animals to become obese. Dogs will often beg for food, especially table scraps. Many owners feel that giving their pets a little extra food won’t hurt, showing how much they love them. However, this can be very harmful to your dog’s health and cause them to gain weight.

Neutering

Neutering /spaying is a common cause of obesity in dogs, and it’s crucial for owners to be aware. Spaying and neutering reduce your pet’s metabolic rate, causing them to burn fewer calories. While they may still eat the same amount, they can gain weight. Here is our guide for exercising dogs after spaying.

Age

Senior dogs may not move around as much anymore, leading to weight gain. However, this does not mean that all older dogs will get obese; owners need to pay attention to their pet’s energy levels and adjust their diet accordingly. Additionally, older pets often suffer from arthritis or other medical conditions that may cause them to be less active, causing weight gain and a fat dog.

Medical Conditions

Health conditions can cause obesity in dogs. Some of these include Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, diabetes. Neurological disorders in animals (such as dementia or other central nervous system diseases) can cause animals to overeat and thus become obese.

How to Tell if Your Dog is Overweight?

The best way to tell if your dog is at its ideal weight is to look at its body shape.

  1. Look at your dog from above and from the side. You should be able to see a definite waist.
  2. Run your hands down your dog’s belly; it should go in, not be bulging out; if it is, your dog is overweight.
  3. Feel along your dog’s body; in most dogs, you should be able to feel their ribs and spine easily, but they should not be sticking out at all.
  4. If there is a ridge of fat between your dog’s tail and its body, you may need to consider a healthy weight loss plan for your furry friend.

Some websites and pet stores have a body condition score chart like this one from Purina that you can use to determine your dog’s ideal weight.

How to Help Your Dog Lose Weight

Calorie restriction and exercise are important factors for weight loss in dogs. If you are wondering how to put your dog on a diet, it’s best to consult your vet, who will consult a body condition score chart and may advise you to substitute your regular dog food for healthy options. For example, bulking up meals with vegetables like carrots and green beans and only feeding low calorie treats. They may even offer prescription diet food.

Exercise can help many dogs lose weight because it burns calories and improves the heart and lungs. In fact, walking for weight loss is one of the best ways to get rid of those excess calories. However, if a dog is extremely obese, then exercise needs to be carefully monitored in order to prevent injury.

Dog Weight Loss Exercise Plan

Walking

Walking is a great way to shift that excess weight It is also a great form of exercise to help build muscle and improve heart and lung function. Dogs with arthritis or other joint problems might need to be picky about the surfaces they walk on, such as picking grass over concrete.

Dogs with breathing problems due to their weight may need to rest after short bouts of exercise. As a dog loses weight, they will be able to do more physical activity and more extended periods of time.

Top tip – remember to keep your dog’s nails trimmed if they are not walking much.

Running

Running is one of the best exercises for a dog because it improves speed and endurance and burns a lot of calories. If you want your pet to lose more weight, running every day will help them burn more calories and shed those extra pounds quicker.

Running can also benefit an overweight dog’s joints because it reduces the pressure on them. Of course, an obese dog may find it hard to keep up with someone running. In that case, you may consider running with your dog and then walking with them for a few minutes.

Swimming

Swimming is one of the best exercises to help shed your dog’s excess weight because it is low impact exercise. It allows dogs who can’t run or jog due to health reasons such as arthritis or hip dysplasia to exercise and enjoy themselves. Swimming is an intense cardiovascular workout that will help your pet lose those extra pounds fast.

Use a Backpack

A dog carries 60% of its weight on its front legs, so using a weighted backpack can help your pet exercise their upper body as they walk around because that area is worked harder to compensate for the weight. The style of backpacks that dogs wear also have other health benefits for dogs, such as strengthening the muscles, improving balance and stability, and decreasing stress.

Dog sports

Dog sports such as canicross can help dogs lose weight. It offers both physical and mental demands and therefore leads to an increase in energy consumption. There are lots of sports to choose from. You may like dancing to music with your canine companion or something more extreme like dock diving or Joring.

Always consider your best friend’s health and body condition before starting any sports with your overweight dog and consult your vet if you’re unsure.

Agility

Dogs are naturally active creatures and agility is an excellent way for them to lose weight and stay healthy. Agility is an obstacle course for dogs. It’s usually about 20 feet long and there are jumps, tunnels, zig-zags, weave poles etc.

Dogs are judged on how fast they can complete the course in competitions, but really the focus is to have fun with your dog and it can be done easily at home! There are both indoor and outdoor courses and you can even build your own DIY agility course.

Playtime

This is an integral part of weight management as your dog will drop the extra weight while having fun. Just incorporate it into your daily routine. Maybe a game of fetch in the garden a couple of times a day, you could put their food bowl upstairs and make finding it a game, or do some low impact exercises like stretching their front legs or sit-stand jump.

Your dog’s life will be more enriched if you play with them often and you could achieve significant weight loss over time.

Cavaletti

Cavaletti poles are a fantastic addition to any dog weight loss plan and are especially good for arthritic dogs and ones with mobility issues. All you need are some wooden or plastic poles placed either on the floor or an inch or two off the ground in various patterns. These exercises will improve your dog’s balance and coordination and strengthen their joints.

Use a treadmill

One method of treating obesity in pets is to put them on a (specialized) treadmill. This is very useful if the pet’s overweight and needs to lose a considerable amount of weight. A dog treadmill can help an obese dog lose weight safely and controlled, which is better for the pet’s health than simply losing the weight on its own or trying to exercise more.

Overweight or Obese Dogs – Health Problems

If you have an overweight or obese dog, they are susceptible to all sorts of health issues such as diabetes, respiratory and joint problems; that’s why keeping them at their ideal body weight is so important.

Below are just a few of the medical conditions that may result from feeding your pup too many calories.

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Back problems
  • Cruciate ligament injuries
  • Breathing problems, especially in brachycephalic breeds
  • Heatstroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatitis

How Long Does it Take for a Dog to Lose Weight?

Pet parents need to be aware that a dog’s weight loss doesn’t happen overnight. If a dog looks overweight, it is probably at least 15% over its target weight and a safe weight loss is around 1% a week of the starting body weight.

Your vet can advise you of how much your pet should be losing; larger dogs may lose up to 4lbs a month whereas smaller dogs will lose less, but each dog on a diet is different, so you may need to adjust the weight loss program a few times to achieve the best results and help your dog reach peak condition.

FAQ’s

How far should I walk my overweight dog?

It depends on the individual and your dog’s weight; start with short distances a couple of times a day and gradually increase over 3-6 months; watch out for signs of fatigue and don’t push your dog to do too much too soon.

How fast should an overweight dog lose weight?

Once again, all dogs are different; it depends on how many calories they are eating and how many they are burning. On average, your pooch should lose between 3-5% of their starting weight every month, although a few dogs may lose more.

Can you take fat dogs running?

Most dogs enjoy running and it’s an excellent part of any dog exercise plan; however, it depends on how chubby your dog is. If they are extremely obese, running will be challenging for them and could result in injury or breathing problems.

How do you know if your dog is obese?

You should be able to see your dog’s waist and feel its ribs and spine through a thin layer of fat.

Last Word

There is a bit of a dog obesity epidemic at the moment in the UK. A recent study from the University of Cambridge found that a third of dogs in the UK are overweight.

So it’s time to cut out the dog treats and get Fido moving!

If you are not sure how to put a dog on a diet, have a word with your vet, who will advise about dog diets for weight loss, but exercise is an essential part of any dog diet plan.

Most overweight dogs don’t naturally walk at a pace needed for weight loss, so you will need to stroll at a brisker pace and add other forms of activity into your best friend’s daily routine, such as playtime at the dog park or at home and maybe some stretching exercises to get them moving.

We hope this guide has given you some tips on how to help a dog lose weight. We all want our canine companions to lead long and healthy lives and a dog’s diet and exercise are integral to achieving this!

John Devlin

Blogger and owner of George and Henry. Two gorgeous goldens that couldn’t be more different. One is a dream loving and caring, and his sibling is as naughty as can be. When I am not blogging about dogs, I love watching sport and travelling with the family.
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