Is Your Older Dog Overweight?
Why weight gain is common in aging dogs and how to help combat it
As your dog ages, they might not be able to go on as many adventures with you as they once did. Perhaps they’ve been tiring sooner on walks and their playtime has become less rambunctious. As their activity has decreased, you may have started showing your affections in a new way, like by giving them a few extra treats or a bigger bowl of food. You may not have realized, however, that their current diet no longer contains the right caloric balance for their age and energy level.
This decrease in activity paired with an increase in calories can lead to weight gain. While the occasional treat is a great way to reward your dog or share a bonding moment, it's important to learn how to spoil your aging dog in ways that better support their health.
You want the very best for your dog as they enter their golden years, which is why it's important to recognize the obesity risks they face and learn how to help your older dog maintain a healthy weight.
Why senior dogs gain weight (and the issues associated with weight gain)
As we’ve already mentioned, the risk for obesity increases as your dog ages. In general, weight gain happens when more calories are consumed than burned. Additional contributing factors may include:
- Underlying health issues. Set up a time to talk with your vet and rule this out before making any major changes in diet and exercise routine.
- The food they have been eating is no longer serving their biological needs
- A slowing metabolism
- Aging joints can cause your dog pain and lead to decreased mobility, which translates to fewer calories burned. Talk with your vet about how to address painful joints if you have noticed your furry friend slowing down or having difficulty getting up after a slumber.
Obesity can lead to damaged joints, bones and ligaments. This, in turn, can create a cyclic issue where mobility worsens and leads to further weight gain, putting more pressure on your dog’s aging body.
Additionally, weight gain can lead to increased blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, cancer and more.
How to determine if your older dog is overweight
Keeping an eye on your senior dog’s weight will allow you to know whether you need to take action to help your dog lose weight or if you simply need to take a proactive stance to prevent unnecessary weight gain.
Your dog’s appearance can tell you a lot about whether they are at their ideal weight. Along with the graphic below, your veterinarian can help you determine a healthy weight for your dog.
How you can help an overweight senior dog
Taking a proactive approach to your aging dog’s weight can help you avoid obesity. By keeping up with their overall health and wellness, you can often see positive outcomes. Consider the following:
Schedule regular vet appointments
Your aging dog should be visiting the vet regularly—ideally, twice a year for older dogs. Regular vet visits can help diagnose any underlying health issues that can lead to obesity, and your vet can keep an eye on your dog’s weight, too.
You can also work with your vet to determine the right food for your older dog.
- You might consider a senior formula that offers fewer calories and supports aging joints.
- Or, if you're concerned about your dog’s weight, ask your vet about a vet-recommended diet for weight loss. These diets are designed to increase satiety while decreasing calorie intake. Your vet will let you know this is an appropriate solution for your aging canine.
Assess their nutrition and feed them the right way
One of the simplest ways to keep your older dog at a healthy weight is to feed them the right food in the right way.
- Make sure you're not giving your dog too many treats. Treats should make up no more than 10% of their daily caloric intake. Consider swapping out calorie-dense treats for healthy treats, like approved veggies or low-calorie dog treats.
- Make sure everyone in the family is on the same page and no one is sneaking food to your dog. Those extra calories can add up quickly.
- Use joint supplements to help your dog maintain their mobility and the health of their aging joints. Ask your vet what they’d recommend.
- Consider elevated food bowls, which may reduce strain on your dog’s joints and muscles, which in turn can help keep them active.
Keep them active the right way
Alongside nutrition, your older dog needs to get ample physical activity to manage their weight. Talk to your vet about activities that will meet the needs of your particular pup
- Engage in age-appropriate physical play every day.
- Add in mental workouts, like using a puzzle toy, to help maintain mental acuity without straining their joints.
Pay attention to signs that your dog needs a break. Obesity and mobility can be cyclical for older dogs. Lowered mobility can translate to less movement, which can, in turn, create more weight gain. However, pushing your older dog too hard during physical exercise can exacerbate physical mobility pain.
To help lessen the pressure on your dog's joints, consider investing in a few products that may help your dog access their favorite places and reduce their chances of injury from jumping from the ground into bed, onto the couch and into the car:
- Ramps for getting into the car
- Carriers they can be placed in on long walks as needed
- Steps for getting on and off the couch or bed
Now that you know how to proactively manage your pet’s weight as they age, you can get back to focusing on the years you have to enjoy together, knowing that you’re doing your best to support their overall health and vitality.