7 breeds most prone to being obese and what overweight dogs look like

Written by Napo HQ
Reviewed by Dr Louisa Lane
12th Oct 2022
6 mins read
What does an overweight dog look like? This Beagle in the photo is visibly overweight
Summary
1 in 2 dogs are now overweight or obese. However, some breeds are more at risk of piling on the pounds than others. To coincide with pet obesity awareness day, we are going to explain why some dogs are more at risk. These breeds include Labradors, Cocker Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, Pugs, Beagles, Basset Hounds, and Dachshunds. To help you be able to spot what an overweight dog looks like, we’ve given examples of these breeds when they’re obese, or at a healthy weight.
In 2019, vets estimated that between
46%
and
51%
of dogs were overweight, although those figures may have risen since. In other words, 1 in 2 dogs are overweight.
It can be hard to know what overweight dogs look like, since we’re now so used to seeing chubby canines. To help raise awareness, we’ve written about 7 of the breeds most prone to obesity and included photos of healthy dogs compared to obese dogs, so you can see what overweight dogs look like.

The 7 breeds most prone to being overweight

The seven breeds most likely to pile on the pounds include:
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Pugs
  • Beagles
  • Dachshunds
  • Basset Hounds
Read on to find out why these dogs are at greater risk, and to see a visual comparison of an overweight dog and one at an ideal weight.

Labrador Retrievers

Labrador Retrievers
are the most popular dog breed on the planet. And as any owner will know, they’ll eat anything and everything. So it might not be a shock to find out these pups are the most likely to pile on the pounds.
One reason that Labradors are so likely to be overweight or obese is their genetics. Most Labradors have
a deleted gene
which makes them more food motivated. This can make them easier to train, and makes them more likely to be a successful assistance dog. However, this mutation also means that Labradors can’t recognise when they feel full, so they overeat and put on weight.
Another reason why Labrador Retrievers are more likely to be obese is because it’s become normal to see overweight dogs. Since such a large proportion of the breed are chunky, people’s perception shifts to think that’s how they’re meant to look.
So what does an overweight Labrador look like? Here’s a comparison of a lean Lab with an overweight one.
The image shows an overweight Labrador on the left next to a Labrador Retriever that's an ideal weight on the right

Cocker Spaniels

When we think of Cocker Spaniels, we tend to think of energetic, bonkers dogs that are always running around. So it can come as a surprise that they’re one of the breeds most at risk of being a bit chunky. 
Again, this could be because they’re a working dog and so it made sense to breed food-motivated pups who were easier to train. And as most Spaniel owners know, they’ve usually got a big appetite and a tendency to use their puppy eyes to convince you everything belongs in their tummy.
It could also be because these dogs were bred to spend hours working in the fields and have an appetite to match. But now they are more likely to be pets and don’t get as much exercise as their working ancestors, but they’ve not adapted to this lifestyle change.
The graphic shows an overweight Cocker Spaniel on the left, and a Cocker Spaniel that's an ideal weight on the right
It isn’t just Cockers though, their close cousins the Springer Spaniel are also at greater risk of obesity.

Golden Retrievers 

One of the dog breeds most likely to become overweight is the Golden Retriever. Golden Retrievers share a lot of ancestry with the Labrador Retriever, so the same genetics that make Labs likely to be chunky can affect them too.
Just like Labs, Golden Retrievers are food-motived and have a tendency to overeat. So portion control is a must to keep your Golden looking trim and staying healthy.
It can sometimes be hard to tell if a Golden Retriever is a bit overweight because of their long fur, so make sure you feel their tummy and ribs to check their body condition, rather than just visually checking.
The Golden Retriever on the left is an example of an overweight dog, while the Golden Retriever on the right is an ideal weight

Pugs 

In a study by the Royal Veterinary College,
Pugs
are the breed mostly likely to be overweight. They found that Pugs were
3.12x
more likely to be overweight, and in some studies, over
60%
of Pugs were obese. 
Since you’re more likely to see an overweight Pug than one at a healthy weight, it’s easy to start thinking that it’s what they’re meant to look like.
Another reason why Pugs are more likely to be overweight is because of their shape. Pugs were bred to be stocky, but it’s actually their distinctive flat faces that put them at risk.
Brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs can have breathing problems which make them reluctant to exercise. This can be perceived as
laziness
, leading to a lack of exercise and weight gain.
However, many Pugs who are
responsibly bred
with health testing and BOAS grading are energetic dogs.
Pugs are also called lazy because they have a tendency to want to curl up on the couch with their owners. But, this is because they were bred to be companion animals, so it’s in their nature to want to stay close to you. They still need daily exercise, and most Pugs are playful pups who love active games and walks.
The Pug on the left is overweight, meanwhile the Pug on the right is an ideal weight

Beagles 

Beagles are another active working breed, which might make it surprising to find they’re also one of the most likely breeds to become overweight dogs. 
Like the working Retrievers and Spaniels, Beagles have a big appetite too. Again, this could be due to how we humans have bred them, favouring food-motivated dogs who were easier to train. Leading to the breed being greedier and more likely to overeat by nature.
It’s not entirely clear why Beagles are more prone to obesity, but studies show they’re more than 2x as likely to be overweight compared to other pups. So if you own a Beagle, check them out to see how they compare to these normal and overweight examples.
The Beagle on the left is an obese dog, but the Beagle on the right is a healthy weight

Dachshunds 

Dachshunds
may be prone to being overweight because of their unique sausage shape. Since they’re long, it can be hard to tell if they have a waist or abdominal tuck, which indicates a healthy dog.
Secondly, Dachshunds are another breed where being overweight has become the norm. So many sausage dogs are overweight that people may start to think that’s just how they’re meant to look and not recognise when a dog is bigger than it should be.
Another reason Dachshunds can be prone to weight gain is because 1 in 4 develop a condition called IVDD. (Like a slipped disc in humans.) This makes their back sore, and understandably, can make a poorly pup not want to go for walks. And a dog that isn’t exercising much is sure to gain weight. 
Ironically, the additional weight can make pain from conditions like IVDD or arthritis worse, making it all the more difficult to get your dog to lose weight.
The Dachshund on the left is an overweight dog, meanwhile the Dachshund on the right is a healthy weight

Basset Hounds

Another dog breed prone to obesity is the Basset Hound, but there’s no definitive reason why they’re at high risk. 
It might be because Basset Hounds have earned a reputation for being
a lazy dog breed
because they’re often quite relaxed and restful at home. And if we think they’re lazy, we might not try to walk them or play with them as much. 
However, Basset Hounds are working dogs and get pretty excited about walks. And despite their short legs, they can walk a lot longer than you might expect since these dogs were bred to follow scents for miles.
Another reason Basset Hounds might be prone to obesity is because of their shape. Just like Dachshund, Bassets are prone to IVDD. This can cause pain and make them reluctant to exercise. So if your Basset has gone off walkies, it’s a good idea to get them checked out by a vet.
Plus, resources like the “body condition score” which vets use to check a dog’s health often show dogs with longer legs. So it could be hard to tell if a Basset is chunky without a breed-specific comparison, like this one.
The Basset Hound on the left is visibly overweight, meanwhile the Basset Hound on the right is an ideal weight
Using those examples of commonly overweight dogs, you can hopefully spot what an overweight dog looks like. It might make you look at some of the dogs around you a bit differently!
Although these breeds are at higher risk of obesity, it’s a problem affecting almost half of the UK’s dogs. So no matter what breed you have, it’s important to understand what a healthy dog looks like.
Keeping your dog at a healthy weight will help to lower their risk of some additional health problems, and can help your pup to live
up to 2 years longer
.

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