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Why Is My Dog Gaining Weight?

Plump babies, pudgy puppies -- humans seem drawn to chubby things. But when dogs and their people grow up, the health effects of being overweight can be far from cute.

What are the dangers of weight gain in dogs? What are some common causes of weight gain? And when is it time to talk to a vet about your overweight pet?

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Weight Gain in Dogs: Common Causes and Treatments

About one out of every three dogs in the U.S. may be overweight or obese. Being heavy puts our pets at higher risk for arthritis and shortens life expectancy. In addition, obesity has been associated with numerous other problems in dogs, such as certain tumors, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

To avoid weight gain, calories burned must equal or exceed calories consumed. It’s as true for your pet as it is for you.

And just as with people, many things can cause your pet to gain weight -- from eating too much to getting too little exercise to having a chronic illness. Because we’re not always the best judges of our dog’s physique, it’s a good idea to talk to your vet if you think your dog may be overweight -- especially if the weight gain is sudden.

Some common reasons dogs gain weight include:

Too much food. Often we’re not sure how many calories we need to maintain a healthy weight. So, it’s understandable we may overestimate the energy needs of our dogs. And overestimate we do.

Age can be one reason for the calories-in-calories-out imbalance. That’s because as our pups grow older they often exercise less. Yet, we may continue to feed them the same quantity of food we’ve always done. The result: weight gain.

A dog’s calorie needs can be surprisingly small. Little dogs that aren’t very active need as few as 185 to 370 calories a day. A dog weighing between 67 and 88 pounds may need between 1,100 and 1,700 calories a day.

If those figures surprise you, or if your dog is 10% to 15% above ideal body weight, it’s time to talk to your vet about what you can do to get your dog to maintain a healthy weight.

Not enough exercise. Getting too little exercise is another common reason dogs gain weight.

The amount of exercise your pooch needs to thrive depends on its breed, age, and size. But a good goal is to aim for at least 20 to 60 minutes of activity with your dog each day. Be careful. If your pets haven’t had much activity lately, don’t suddenly take them for a three-mile run. Get exercise tips from your vet and then start any new workout plan for your pooch slowly.

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