Eight dog breeds most at risk of obesity, vets warn

Alfie the Beagle, taking part to the PDSA Pet Fit Club.

One in 14 dogs is recorded by their vets as overweight each year, according to a new study from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) on dog obesity – with some breeds especially prone to weight gain.

The study, led by the RVC’s VetCompass programme, included 22,333 dogs whose health was followed for a year to identify that 1,580 were recorded as overweight. It found that certain breeds are particularly prone to weight gain, meaning their owners need to be especially careful.

Additional findings include:

  • 7.1% dogs under veterinary care were recorded as overweight in a single year.
  • Eight breeds showed increased risk of overweight status compared with crossbred dogs: Pug (x 3.12), Beagle (x 2.67), Golden Retriever (x 2.58), English Springer Spaniel (x 1.98), Border Terrier (x 1.72), Labrador Retriever (x 1.70), Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (x 1.50) and Cocker Spaniel (x 1.32).
  • Two breeds showed reduced risk of overweight status compared with crossbred dogs: Shih-tzu (x 0.53) and German Shepherd Dog (x 0.55).
  • Dogs aged 6 to < 9 (years) had the highest risk of overweight status (x 2.99) compared with dogs < 3.
  • Neutered males had the highest risk (x 1.90) compared with entire females.
  • Insured dogs had 1.28 times the risk of overweight status compared with uninsured dogs.

Camilla Pegram, VetCompass™ Epidemiologist at the RVC, and author of the paper, said, “Whilst veterinary professionals and owners should focus efforts on obesity prevention strategies in all dogs, those identified at high-risk, such as Pugs, Beagles and Golden Retrievers, may need a more targeted approach.”

Dr Eleanor Raffan, Associate Lecturer in Systems Physiology, at the University of Cambridge, and co-author of the paper, added, “Where breed increases risk of a problem, it means genes are likely to be at least in part to blame and our previous work suggests that genetics drives a high appetite in some breeds.

“The bad news is that owners of food-obsessed dogs have to work much harder to keep their dogs at a healthy weight – the good news is that it can be done.”

The study also highlighted that being “neutered and middle-aged” were associated with increasing chances of dogs being overweight.

Therefore, RVC advises, owners should “discuss changes to the diet and exercise plans when they are discussing neutering of their dog with their veterinarian and make adjustments as necessary”.

Dr Dan O’Neill, Senior Lecturer, Companion Animal Epidemiology, at the RVC, and co-author of the paper, said, “To defeat your enemy, you need to know your enemy. Obesity is the enemy of the health of our dogs.

“This new study identifies the breeds and ages of dogs that are most susceptible to obesity; we can use this information to defeat obesity.” 

Pet owners are encouraged to to discuss their dog’s weight and lifestyle on every visit to their veterinary practice.


  1. Great article, very informative and important to be aware of the risks of obesity in dogs. Thank you for sharing this valuable information! – Ashley Fowler


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