How Being Overweight Affects Your Pet's Lifespan

Posted by Dr. Lisa Killian, DVM on

How Being Overweight Affects Your Pet's Lifespan

It may not come as a shock that your pet’s weight has a direct impact on their lifespan, but it’s worth discussing nonetheless.

In 2018, a study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that 56% of dogs and 60% of cats in the United States were overweight. Clearly, obesity is a growing epidemic amongst pets, and while viral videos of chubby cats on treadmills can be funny, it is no laughing matter. In fact, obesity can cut dogs’ lives short by two years. For perspective, that would be about 10-15 in human years.

Here are a few ways those extra pounds affects (and actually limits) your pet’s lifespan - beyond just the scale.


Being overweight puts added stress on a pet’s joints, which can be painful in and of itself, but also contributes to conditions like arthritis. While healthy pets with arthritis may show mild symptoms, if any at all, heavy pets with arthritis may demonstrate increased pain and progressive lack of mobility. This makes their favorite, routine activities, such as going for a walk or hopping on the couch for a cuddle, extremely difficult and uncomfortable, if not outright impossible. Of course, lack of mobility also contributes to obesity - it’s a vicious cycle.

Supplements, like Omega-3 fatty acids can decrease joint pain as they grow old. Since omega-6 fatty acids will be present in so many parts of their diet, it is important to supplement omega-3 acids with sardines and good quality fish oil.


There is a proven, direct correlation between obesity and heart disease in dogs, not to mention high blood pressure.

Like heart disease in humans, it’s slow to develop and may take years to diagnose. Also like in humans, if left untreated it can lead to heart failure, a condition where the heart is unable or has trouble pumping blood to the rest of the body.

Fortunately, both exercise and a healthy diet play a significant role in preventing heart disease.


Dyspnea, or labored breathing, is a common condition in overweight pets. This is primarily caused by additional fat and tissue in this chest, which poses two challenges: It leaves less room for lungs to expand when our pets breathe, while also making the lungs work harder to expand in the first place. Overweight pets are also more at risk for tracheal collapse, which could result in a potentially fatal airway obstruction.

Quality of life

While this may not show any outward physical symptoms, loss of quality of life is a major side effect of obesity in pets.

Being overweight limits pets’ energy level, thereby limiting their ability to do and enjoy their most favorite activities: long walks, a good swim, maybe even a run or game of fetch. If your pet is also experiencing one of the associated health risks mentioned above, this is even more true.

We all want our pets to be happy and healthy and enjoy life, but sharing our food or making treats part of their core diet actually does more harm than good.

While a couple extra pounds may not seem like a big deal, they could have a series of repercussions in the long run.

Have questions about your pet’s weight? Chat with a member of our veterinary team now.