Your dog is fat – blame your veterinarian!

Pet  obesity is common and it is time to talk frankly about the causes. The main cause is that you feed your pet too much and exercise too little1.  A complicating factor is that your veteriarian is afraid to tell you that your dog is a chubby pickle2.

Studies have shown that fat people have fat dogs.  For the purpose of this blog post, we will take that as scientific fact and your veterinarian is to blame.

If you have a fat dog and you are bored one week – do this. Go to 10 veterinarians in your town and tell them your dog has a limp. My bet is that 10 out of 10 will tell you do not worry about the limp because your dog is not limping right now.  However,  only about 2 out of 10 will mention to you that your dog is a porker.  The reason for this is simple. Your veterinarian is terrified of telling you that your dog is tubby.

Remember, your veterinarian has a business to run3. Their goal is to make their clients happy. Upsetting them because they brought up a touchy subject is not in their business plan. Do you blame them?

Although we are not psychologists, and we do now know why pet owners come unglued when we mention that their pets are fat, our experience has shown that what when you mention that a dog is fat –  stand back. It does not matter if the pet owner is fat or skinny. The responses are similar. If, however, the pet owner is overweight, the response is generally decidedly more acute.

The negative response of pet owners to discussion about their pet’s weight are two fold. In some cases pet owners get defensive and either tell us were are wrong or that there is no way that they are overfeeding or under exercising their dog.  In other cases, pet owners become embarrassed as if to say “I know what you are thinking, I am a bad dog owner.”  Regardless of the response, if the pet owner is overweight, we can feel the owners emotions about their own weight issue permeating the rest of the discussion.

Regardless of what happens in the room, although there are notable exceptions, we know that no matter what we say or do, there are often two outcomes. First, the pet owner goes somewhere else where they will not be embarrassed the next time they walk in the door. Second, our recommendations will be ignored and the dog will be larger at the next visit.

In fact, one vet recounted to me that she never talks about weight because if she does, she will feel obligated to sell the pet owner dog food aimed at weight loss. The problem is that these diets never work because the pet owners just feed them too much of the weight loss diet. Eventually what happens is that the owner will be mad at the veterinarian for commenting on the dog’s weight in the first place AND mad that they spent money on a diet that did not work.

The bottom line on this is that veterinarians (including myself) should take some blame for your fat dog.  Because we are afraid of hurting your feelings, we have not been entirely honest with you but can you blame us? October 12th is national pet obesity awareness day.  If you visit your vet on October 12th (or anytime for that matter) please start the visit by saying “I promise I will not get upset if you tell me my dog is fat.”

For more information about Pet Obesity, please visit There are some great calculators and articles on that site. We have also found that if you set your fitness goals with your dog – everyone benefits.  More on that soon……



1.  Assuming that they do not have a thyroid condition or other medical issue.

2. I know your dog not have fat on his legs. Dogs do not get fat legs. Neither do many fat men either BTW. They are still chubby pickles.

3. And these are hard times for veterinarians