Which Overweight Dogs Have Shorter Lives?

Updated April 13, 2021

Everyone knows that having an overweight dog is bad. But how bad?

Twenty years ago, Purina demonstrated a two year reduction in lifespan in Labradors kept in a laboratory setting. Now a recent large study in the US has for the first time looked at common dog breeds in the home environment.

Here is what they found, in graphic form.

Weight vs Lifespan Chart

overweight dog health

Fascinating isn’t it? I’ve ranked the breeds from smaller to larger, and there’s a clear trend. Smaller breeds suffer the most from being overweight with the same average loss of two years of life. Large breeds have from half to one year taken from their lifespan.

Here’s the same data in tabular form so you can see the numbers.

Weight & Life Span In Dogs

Dog Breed Normal Weight Over Weight
Chihuahua 16.1 14.0
Pomeranian 15.5 13.7
Yorkshire Terrier 15.9 13.6
Shih Tzu 14.5 13.8
American Cocker Spaniel 14.8 13.3
Beagle 15.3 13.3
Dachshund 16.4 14.1
Boxer 12.3 11.7
Pit Bull 13.8 12.9
German Shepherd dog 12.8 12.3
Golden Retriever 13.4 12.6
Labrador Retriever 13.5 12.9

Why Do Small Breeds Lose More?

So let’s come up with some theories for what we see. You are welcome to add your own below. Mine are:

  1. Small dogs are allowed to get much more overweight than big dogs. I regularly see small dogs who are 30% above their target weight but for big dogs that number might be 15% before the same people act on it.
  2. Small breeds are living longer, so they have more to lose (read here though why I don’t see this in my clinic)
  3. Big dogs might have more other diseases limiting their lifespan, especially arthritis and osteosarcoma.

But whatever the reason, it’s a new and striking finding.

Let’s also not forget that it’s not just about how long they live. Several studies have also shown that overweight dogs have reduced quality of life. So now let’s help them live their longest and best lives.

A Positive Conclusion

I know how hard it is for many people. However, it frustrates me when a dog owner says it’s hopeless and they can’t do it. Because they absolutely can.

That’s why I built a whole page devoted to helping you reduce your dog’s weight without blame or judgement. Here’s what a recent reviewer said about it:

Thanks a lot for this comprehensive guide to how to help dogs lose weight. It’s been the most helpful I found on the Web.


Here it is, plus some other pages you might like:

Reference: Association between life span and body condition in neutered client‐owned dogs

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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here.