Too Many Overweight Dogs

“A 2015 study conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention discovered that 54 percent of U.S. dogs were overweight or obese.”  

Adult Golden Retriever Sitting Looking Right


The fact that 54% of all dogs are “overweight or obese” is a clear indicator that there is something VERY wrong with what we are feeding our animals.

Dogs become overweight primarily from eating dog food with high glycemic carbohydrates (like processed grains, potatoes, and sweet potatoes) that are in almost all commercial dog foods now.

Nature designed dogs to eat protein and fat. There are no overweight Wolves, Dingos, Jackals or Coyotes in the wild and their diet is almost entirely fat and protein.

Curious Wolves in field

There are two primary reasons for this:

1) Dogs have the ability to convert fat directly into glucose (a process called gluconeogenesis) to power their muscles and their brains. Dogs have no need for carbohydrates to get glucose. Humans need carbohydrates to get the majority of the glucose they need. This is a big difference between people and dogs – in this regard we are VERY different.

2) High Glycemic Carbohydrates (HG Carbs’s) tend to create overweight people, but they are even worse for dogs. The energy system in a dog is designed to be fed meat and fat which converts to glucose in a slow, steady manner (through gluconeogenesis) to provide  a consistent source of energy to the brain and muscles along with amino acids from the meat to build muscle and bone.

Dogs are not equipped to deal well with the surge of sugar from the HG Carbs’s. They react by flooding their system with insulin to get the blood sugar level down to where it should be, and the insulin converts the carbs to fat and signals the body to store the fat

Little fat pug

Little fat pug sitting on sidewalk in summer park.

To make matters worse yet, the high glycemic carbs create a desire for more carbs which is something I think we can all relate to. They stimulate the appetite instead of satisfying it, which leads to a desire for more carbs, and that cycle results in an overweight dog, (and human).

The great thing about dogs eating fat is that fat satisfies their hunger and turns off their “I’m hungry” switch. HG Carbs’s do exactly the opposite and create a craving for more and more HG Carbs

Another important consideration is that all calories are NOT equal. Four hundred calories of Potatoes is not the same as 400 calories of meat and fat. I’ll exaggerate a little to make it more clear. Ask yourself if 400 calories of sugar is equivalent to 400 calories of meat and fat? It’s clear which is better and  yet we pour grain, potatoes, and sweet potatoes into our dog and wonder why they develop skin problems, allergies, and gain weight on top of that.

So why would anyone feed a weight reduction formula dog food that simply reduces the fat and replaces it with more carbs. Reducing the fat content only increases the problem because when fat is removed from the formula it is usually replaced with more high glycemic carbs – the actual cause of the weight gain to begin with.

To make these foods work the calories must be lowered to such a point that the poor dog is basically being starved back down to a proper weight. Once the diet returns to normal the dog will once again start gaining weight.

If it were just a simple matter of a dog’s tendency to overeat then why wouldn’t wild dogs gorge until they became overweight? They don’t because eating fat chemically triggers a feeling of being satiated or full, while eating processed or high glycemic carbs has the opposite effect and chemically triggers the desire to eat more.

Dogs become overweight from eating too many high glycemic carbs, and the LAST thing they need to do is eat a “Low Fat dog food”  because when they lower the fat they are going to add even more high glycemic carbs to take the place of the fat.


Losing weight does not require a diet that diverges from a nutritionally balanced diet (and certainly not a diet that reduces fat) or lowers the calories like a starvation diet. The healthy, and most effective, long term weight control and weight stabilizing solution is to simply feed your dog a nutritionally balanced, high protein, food that contains high levels of animal sourced protein with equal calories of high quality, identifiable animal sourced fat. The calories to bind the kibble together need to come from low glycemic starches like peas or cassava/tapioca, etc. With a food that is nutritionally balanced and without high glycemic carbs the dog’s natural instincts take over, it stops flooding it’s system with insulin,  and it gravitates toward it’s ideal weight as long as it’s not being overfed.

The dog food industry standard response for overweight dogs is to recommend a “Low Fat” dog food. If reducing fat intake is the solution, then it would be logical to conclude that eating too much fat is the problem. But if this were true then many of the Wolves, Dingoes, and Coyotes would be overweight since their diet is almost completely protein and fat – but it’s hard to find a fat wolf.

Nature designed dogs to eat fat and protein. There are no overweight Wolves, Dingos, Jackals or Coyotes and their diet is almost entirely fat and protein. 

At this point I think it is reasonable to conclude that the overweight problem (among others) is that we’re feeding dogs food that is inappropriate for them as carnivores – food that is full of high glycemic carbs.



You know the old saying, “If it walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and looks like a duck – then it’s probably a duck”.



We feed our domesticated dogs certain things that wild dogs don’t eat which include the following:

A) Refined Carbs from Grains (corn, rice, wheat, barley, bread, etc.)

B) High Glycemic Carbs from baked White Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes

C) Sugar in any form (Molasses, honey, corn syrup)

The industry claims that dogs can “metabolize” grain and other high glycemic carbs so it’s OK to feed the dogs but this is a ridiculous argument. A child can metabolize Sugar Puffs sugar coated cold cereal but does anyone believe that means it can stay healthy eating only cold cereal every day for the rest of it’s life?

Dog food is different because it’s fed twice a day every day for the dog’s entire life so any imbalance or detrimental aspect of the food will be hugely exaggerated over time. It’s not a “once a week” thing it’s twice a day, every day, so it better be good.


Richard Darlington