Study finds overweight dogs live shorter lives

Published on February 13, 2019

New research with data provided by Banfield Pet Hospital found that the lifespan of overweight dogs was up to 2 1/2 years shorter, on average, than the lifespan of dogs with a healthy body weight.

The study out of England, from the University of Liverpool and Mars Petcare's Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, revealed that overweight dogs overall are more likely to have shorter lives than those at ideal body weights. The study, "Association between life span and body condition in neutered client-owned dogs," was conducted retrospectively over two decades and published online Dec. 11 in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

Using Banfield data, the researchers examined records for more than 50,000 neutered, client-owned male and female dogs aged between 6 1/2 and 8 1/2 years across 12 popular dog breeds. The correlation between being overweight and reduced lifespan was seen in all 12 breeds, although the magnitude of the reduction differed, ranging from five months for male German Shepherd Dogs to 2 1/2 years for male Yorkshire Terriers.

According to the discussion by the study authors: "These results emphasize the need for veterinarians to implement steps to prevent the development of obesity in dogs under their care. Specifically, veterinarians could use the study findings in discussions with owners of new puppies, to highlight the risk that overweight status poses to health and the need for prevention. The findings could also be used in discussions with owners of already-obese dogs to convince them of the need to implement a controlled weight loss program."

Chart: Differences in median lifespan between dogs in normal and overweight body condition
Source: "Association between life span and body condition in neutered clientowned dogs," Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine

Related JAVMA content:

Taking on obesity as a disease (Oct. 1, 2018)

Banfield finds 1 in 3 dogs and cats is overweight (Aug. 1, 2017)