Skip to main content

These 10 dog breeds are prone to obesity

National Pet Obesity Awareness Day falls on October 13 as a reminder to pet parents to monitor the weight of their animal companions. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), more than half of all dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Dog gain weight for many reasons, including overfeeding or feeding the wrong food, lack of exercise, age, and health conditions. Genetics may also play a role in a dog’s weight gain. For obese dogs, it’s important to speak with your veterinarian about establishing a healthy feeding and exercise routine. Following are 10 dog breeds prone to obesity.


In a Banfield Pet Hospital 2020 Veterinary Emerging Topics report, pugs topped the list of overweight breeds with 64% diagnosed as obese. The lack of exercise combined with overfeeding leads to overweight in pugs.

Exercise needs: Veterinary experts recommend a 25-minute daily walk at a comfortable pace. Pugs also enjoy games of fetch.

An overweight pug standing on a bed.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Cairn terriers

Described by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as “happy, busy little earth dogs,” cairns were originally bred to root out foxes and other small prey in Scotland. According to veterinary experts, obesity can be a significant health problem in cairn terriers, leading to joint problems, back pain, and heart disease.

Exercise Needs: Cairns require at least an hour of daily exercise. They also enjoy participating in obedience, tracking, herding, and agility trials.

Shetland sheepdogs

Shetland sheepdogs, also known as shelties, were originally bred as herding dogs on Scotland’s Shetland Islands. Today, they are intelligent, loyal family pets. They have developed a talent for begging for food with their soulful eyes, which is one reason they are prone to obesity.

Exercise needs: Shelties need at least an hour of daily exercise. They make great jogging and hiking buddies and enjoy participating in agility and herding trials.

Basset hounds

These mild-mannered hounds make wonderful family pets. Bassets excel at getting their way, say experts at the Basset Hound Club of America and that includes persuading their people to give them extra food. Obesity is a common problem with this breed and can lead to back problems.

Exercise needs: A daily 30- to 60-minute walk at a moderate pace will help keep this breed in shape. Chasing balls and tracking events are other fun activities for bassets.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

Originally bred to serve as lap warmers, these spaniels make devoted and loyal family pets. Cavaliers are on the list of breeds at increased risk of obesity, according to a 2020 research study at the Royal Veterinary College.

Exercise needs: Two 30-minute daily walks with a few play sessions in between will help keep this breed healthy.

Cavalier King Charles spaniel going for a walk.
Image used with permission by copyright holder


These spunky, curious, friendly dogs are popular family pets. Veterinary experts say that obesity in this breed can lead to diabetes and disk damage in their long backs.

Exercise needs: Dachshunds need regular exercise not only to stay in shape but also to build strong muscles to support and protect their backs. Two 30 to 40-minute daily walks will provide good workouts for these dogs.

Labrador Retrievers

The No. 1 most popular dog in the U.S. also tops the list of breeds with the highest rate of obesity. One study shows that genetics may be partly to blame for the problem, according to an article in the New Scientist magazine. Obesity increases a lab’s risk of heart and liver disease, joint inflammation, and respiratory diseases.

Exercise needs: Labradors need at least an hour of energetic walking every day. They also enjoy swimming, hiking, and running and do well in agility, tracking, and dock-diving trials.


The most popular hound dogs in the U.S., according to the AKC, beagles are curious, clever, and energetic. Unfortunately, they are also food hounds who love to eat everything in sight. The Royal Veterinary College study placed beagles on the list of breeds at the greatest risk of obesity.

Exercise needs: Beagles are active dogs and need at least an hour of walking every day. They also enjoy hiking and do well in agility, fly ball, and rally obedience trials.


Described as calm, courageous, and friendly by the AKC, bulldogs love to eat and can never have enough. That and the fact that they can handle only limited exercise make it easy for them to gain weight.

Exercise needs: A 20- to 30-minute walk every day will help keep bulldogs in good shape. As with all brachycephalic (short-headed) breeds, it’s important to restrict exercise to the coolest part of the day. Bulldogs love to play, and chasing or fetching a ball will help keep them moving between walks.

A bulldog playing with a ball.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Golden retrievers

Intelligent, friendly, devoted family pets, these popular dogs pay a price for their exuberant personalities and love of food. According to APOP, nearly 60% of golden retrievers in the U.S. are considered overweight or obese.

Exercise needs: Goldens need at least an hour or more of high-energy walking every day. They also make great running buddies and enjoy swimming and participating in canine sports such as agility, obedience, and tracking.

Helping your dog lose weight can be challenging, but with commitment and a plan, you can get your buddy back into shape. Veterinary experts say that weight loss could add quality years to your pet’s life. So, the next time your dog begs for food, think about those extra years of fun together and toss him a ball instead.

Editors' Recommendations

Vera Lawlor
Vera was the pet columnist for 201 Family magazine and has contributed pet and animal welfare articles to Bone-A-Fide Mutts…
Is a Belgian Malinois a good family dog? Everything you need to know about this amazing dog breed
Belgian Malinois breed description, family behavior, and more
A Belgian Malinois leaps through a meadow of dandelions

If you're considering opening up your home to a new four-legged family member, there may be a lot of thoughts swimming through your mind. This is totally normal. Bringing home a new pet is a big change, so it's only natural (and responsible) to think through every aspect of the decision before you commit. One thing you may be considering is which dog breed would be best for your home. Although you may not be able to hand-pick your perfect breed when adopting a pet from a shelter, knowing a bit about the most common dog breeds can help you make an informed choice.
The Belgian Malinois is a breed often seen in cities, suburbs, and farms, though it's often mistaken for an entirely different dog -- the German shepherd. While they are related, these breeds are completely separate from one another. Familiarizing yourself with Belgian Malinois characteristics and traits will help you decide whether this may be a breed for your family, but first, we'll have to ask -- is a Belgian Malinois a good family dog?
Let's find out everything there is to know about this strong and loyal dog breed.

Belgian Malinois breed characteristics

Read more
Husky health: 6 common health problems in Siberian huskies and what to look out for
Here’s what you should know if you’re adopting or bringing home a Siberian husky dog
A Siberian husky's close-up with mouth open, panting

Whether you're considering bringing home a Siberian husky or you're just a fan of this majestic breed, it's important to educate yourself about all aspects of their life, including their health. After all, no dog is invincible when it comes to injury and illness. Even though no one can completely predict what a dog's health will look like in the future, a dog's breed can make them more predisposed to certain conditions. A little bit of knowledge can help owners choose which preventative measures they may want to take, and it can ultimately help keep a dog healthy in the long run.

Huskies may be known as a noisy and athletic Northern breed, but even they are predisposed to a few health concerns. These are the kinds of symptoms husky owners should keep an eye out for because when you know what to look for, you're much more likely to catch it early when it's treatable.

Read more
How often should I feed my cat? Here’s what to know about cat feeding schedules
There's a lot more to think about than just what cat food to buy
Cat licking lips over food bowl

Trying to find the perfect food for your cat can be difficult -- just ask any cat owner with a picky eater at home. The shops and internet are home to endless delicious and nutritious options to choose from, but buying the best food for your cat is only half the battle — your cat's feeding schedule is another code to crack. If you've ever wondered, "How often should I feed my cat," you're not alone.

You can feed cats anywhere from one to five times a day, depending on their individual needs. After all, it's no secret that every cat has a distinct personality, right? No matter how often you feed your cat, their feeding schedule can impact their digestive system, energy level, and overall happiness, so finding the perfect balance for them is essential. Like many other animals, cats love routine, and once they learn their feeding schedule, they'll happily remind you of it.

Read more