Fat Labrador

Yellow Labrador Retriever Characteristics

It’s not unusual to see a fat Labrador. Our perspectives on healthy weights for dogs have been a little skewed in recent years as more pets hit the obesity marker on the scale. And Labradors are very prone to weight gain for genetic and hunger reasons!

Canine obesity comes with a raft of accompanying health problems. Feeding your Labrador just the right amount can be a bit of a balancing act, but it’s one that you have a responsibility to try your best to achieve. Not all Labradors need the same amount of food, so you will need to pay attention to your individual dog’s needs, and be prepared to change your habits if necessary.

Some dogs like working dogs for example, will need quite a lot more food in the winter than they do in the summer. This is down to the amount of exercise he is getting differing dramatically in the changing seasons. You need to adapt your feeding to suit these shifts.


Is My Labrador Fat?

It is really important that you keep your Labrador’s weight appropriate for his height and build,  rather than following guidelines on food packets or in books too closely. The best way to tell is by eye and touch.

Have a look at your dog and compare him with the picture below of a healthy Labrador. Look at your dog from the side.

  • Does his belly slope upwards towards his groin, or is it a level line from his front legs to his back,  or even worse is it sagging down between his legs?
  • Your Labrador should have an upward sloping line from the base of his chest, towards his back legs.
  • Now look at the dog from above.  Can you see a ‘waist’  just in front of his hips?  You should be able to!   Your dog should not be the same width all the way down his body.
  • Look at your dog from the side again.  Can you see any ribs?
  • You should not be able to see a  lab’s ribs whilst he is standing still though you may well be able to see the last one or two when he is eating, drinking or bending and twisting.
  • Run you hands along his rib cages firmly.  Can you feel his ribs?

Ideally you should be able to just feel, but not see, your dog’s ribs.  If you can see ribs when he is standing still he is too thin. If you cannot feel his ribs at all with your hands he is too fat!

this dog is slim and a healthy weight
this dog is slim and a healthy weight

How Much Should My Labrador Weigh?

As we have seen above, the best way to tell if you have a fat Labrador is by looking and feeling. The trouble with providing you with a number is that it can give a false impression.

Depending upon whether your Lab is field or bench bred, short or tall, chunky or slight, male or female, will all make a big difference to their ideal weight for the individual.

The average adult Labrador will weigh anywhere between 55 to 80 lbs! Male Labs usually being around 5 to 10 lbs heavier than their female counterparts.

If you are still unsure whether your Lab is the right weight for his or her build having given her a thorough check yourself as described above, then the best thing to do is to pop down to your local veterinarian.

They will be happy to let you know how much your individual Labrador should weigh.

Why Is My Labrador Fat?

So how did your slim little puppy end up as a fat adult Labrador?

There are three common assumptions that people make when considering how their dogs came to be overweight.

Does the dog need more exercise? Has he got some kind of medical problem? Or am I just feeding him too much at mealtimes or giving too many snacks?

In general if your dog is overweight the real reason is simply that he has eaten too much. Or rather, been allowed to eat too much.

So let’s have a look at how we can eliminate these other possibilities where most dogs are concerned.

Does my dog need more exercise?

People often say to me,  “my Lab is a bit overweight because he hasn’t had much exercise lately.”

Whilst exercise can help to keep your dog in shape as a part of their daily routine, it is not the critical factor when it comes to putting on weight.

He may well need more exercise, but that is not why he is fat.

He is overweight because when you take into account the amount he exercises along with a number of other factors, he has eaten too much.

The exercise needs of your dog are an important but separate issue, which we look at in other articles.   The important thing to remember is this:

The less exercise you give the dog,  the less you must feed him.

You can’t be forever playing ‘catch up’  with his weight,  or hoping to spend more time walking him next week.  Once put on, weight is hard to shift and it will simply go up and up over time.

You need to control it on a regular weekly/monthly basis, starting now.

Medical causes of canine obesity

Although most dogs who are overweight have simply had a few too many bites to eat, there are some medical causes for obesity which do crop up from time to time.

Canine medical conditions that can affect your Labs weight include hypothyroidism, insulinoma and hyperadrenocorticism.

If a medical condition is the reason then the weight gain will normally be sudden and unexpected.

If you are concerned by sudden weight gain in your Lab when you have not been giving him more food, then a checkup at the vets is definitely in order.

You may also find that your dog puts on weight after having been neutered. If this is the case you will need to adjust your feeding habits accordingly.

However, for most dogs weight gain is a simple result of over feeding.

My Labrador is always hungry

People are often concerned because they worry that their dog is still hungry after eating his dinner.  Here is an important truth:

Most Labradors are always hungry.

You cannot win this battle.  These are greedy dogs and your Labrador will always want more food than you give him.  No matter how much that may be.

If your Labrador is overweight he really needs to eat less and he will get used to his new regime quite quickly.

Are Fat Labs Less Healthy?

If you have looked at your Labrador and decided he is overweight, you might be wondered whether that actually matters.

You still love him and he doesn’t care what he looks like – so why should you bother?

Is it really worth the effort of ignoring those puppy dog eyes and whines for extra food? Aren’t chubby Labs just even more cute and cuddly than their skinny friends?

Whilst it’s true that your dog has no interest in his outward appearance, he will be the one suffering on the inside if you allow him to get fat.

Slim dogs are healthier

Being overweight predisposes you to an awful lot of unpleasant health problems. This is true regardless of whether you are a human or a dog.

Carrying extra pounds can also make existing problems your dog may have worse. For example joint problems like arthritis and hip dysplasia can be exacerbated by having more weight to lug around.

As well as joints and bones suffering from obesity related issues, increased body fat can also make your dog more likely to have problems with their organs including those needed for breathing and digestion.

Scarily, in order for these risks to be increased your dog doesn’t even have to be very over weight. Just a bit of extra fat can have a host of unwanted consequences.

Being a fat Lab puppy can potentially make your dog more likely to suffer from joint problems later in life.

Slim dogs live longer

Not only will a slim dog have a better level of fitness and a lower likelihood of becoming unwell, they will in all probability live longer too.

Purina PetCare carried out a lifetime study on 48 Labradors, where they were divided into two categories, one of which was given 25% more food than the other.

Those Labs on the large food ration had a median lifespan of over 11 years old. Those on the smaller food ration lived to be over 13 years old.

When you look at the difference which can be made in these terms, by helping your Lab to stay slim you could be giving him an incredible two more years with you!

So, if you are going to help your Lab to lose weight let’s have a look at the best way to go about it.

How to Reduce your Dog’s Food

The first thing to cut out of your overweight dog’s diet is any snacks or fillers that you give him in between meals.   If he gets a lot of household scraps these may have to  go too.

If you use food as rewards in dog training, this should be deducted from his daily food allowance.

It could also help to find healthier alternatives to your usual training treats.

Bear in mind that if your dog is unwell, old or very young,  it is sensible to consult your vet before tampering with his diet. It is also a good idea to have a chat with them beforehand if your dog is very overweight and has a lot to lose.

Record your Dog’s Weight Loss Progress

If your dog gets nothing to eat but a complete dog food then you can safely simply reduce the quantity you give him by about a third for three to four days.

Take a photo of him from above and from the side before you start.

At the end of the three to four days,  check the dog over as described above and ask yourself if he is still fat.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson(paid link)

If you think he has improved a little but needs to slim down a bit further,  keep going for another three to four days then review the situation.

Compare the photo you took a week ago and you should see some improvement.

Keep going until your dog has a ‘waist’ again and you can feel his ribcage when you press firmly along his sides.

You may need to increase his food slightly in order to maintain his new slim figure and ensure he does not get thin.

If the dog is not losing weight after a couple of weeks on two-thirds of his previous food allowance, you may need to cut his food down even further.

This is a good point to check in with your vet,  let him know what you are doing and get his opinion on cutting down further on the dog’s daily food rations.

The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website


  1. My Lab is 41kg and panting on walking she is always hungry the vet said she would put on weight after being spayed I have been feeding her on reduced biscuits and chicken with little effect any advice?

    • 41 KG is big, is your dog still this weight?

      I’m replying because I think others may be in your situation, and thus I hope this might help them:

      You hopefully have this under control now, but my advice would be get some food scales, weight the dog’s food you usually give her, and then reduce it by 10% every 2 days until it’s what it should be for your dog (if you’re not sure, ask advice from your vet, as I’m a) not a proffessional and b) not able to assess your dog).
      My lab is just over 1 and just got told that there is too much “padding” over her ribs, she is 27.4 KG, and I suspect her perfect weight is between 26.5KG and 27 KG. So she’s going on a diet. We have been giving her 200 grams of her kibble per meal, this has now been reduced to 190 grams and as of today is going down to 180 grams. Note: different kibble has different calorie density, so don’t take the amounts I’m saying as inherently relevant, but if you’re giving your dog more like 250 grams, then that would be a red flag. I believe most are more calorie dense than the one I use though.

      As she likes her kibble we frequently use it on walks, but we’re also reducing it as a tool. She does get a little cheese as well, again, in a training setting, but that’s very rare, only when there’s a very big distraction.

      I’d also add that she is exercised a fair bit, she gets generally 2-2.25 hours of walks a day (spread over 2-3 walks).
      To keep the food interesting, we often put it in a snuffle mat, or in boxes for her to rip a part to get to.
      But she is a working type lab, and thus has a lot of energy.

      I’d consider cutting down on the chicken and just using the kibble for a while. If you want to give some low calorie variation, small chopped up peices of apple, carrot, pepper and blueberries are some nice ideas, but always in moderation.

      If she is whinning for more food, don’t be afraid to tell her no, but reward her with affection when she stops whinning. She will learn, but it will take some time.

  2. I have a 3 year old yellow male and he is about 128 pounds. We have tried every weight loss dog food and we think he his has a food sensitivity to chicken. We have him on a buffalo and sweet potato food right now, we have tried salmon, and he wasn’t crazy about it. He was on r/d from the vet and that helped but he was constantly itching we think because of the chicken. We are at a loss of what to feed him to help him lose weight. He goes on a walk every day, but he likes to sniff and pee, sniff and pee, not a good pace walker. He does have a thyroid problem but it is controlled and monitored. Anyone have a no chicken diet they can recommend?

  3. To anyone who has this problem, I found replacing about a third of the chow with veggies helps a lab lose and maintain weight easily. Some may eat fresh, or cook the veggies in unsalted plain chicken or beef stock made with only meat NO onion. One of my labs only liked frozen veggies. Other folks find low sodium canned veggies easy and digestible for pups. Basically, they get the bulk and don’t feel denied.
    To the lady in India…I now have an American lab who ran himself skinny. As recommended by my vet, high protein and high fat diet added pounds needed.

  4. I gat a fat labrador. He is 100000 kg. He destroyed a country and is large as a tank. He destroyed a soldiers car. Help.

  5. Sorry but this site is out of date. Research published in September 2016 at Cambridge University as to why most Labradors are so addicted to food (part funded by Dog’s Trust) showed that the vast majority of Labradors have a genetic variation which, in effect, means that nature has not provided a mechanism for the dog to feel full i.e no off button. So, Labradors are not greedy in the sense that we humans are.

    • She didn’t say that Labradors were greedy in the sense that humans are. She said that Labradors are greedy. Which means that their eagerness for food can come from any source. My lab is certainly greedy for food. I have three dogs and I feed all of them at once. One of mine has the propensity to ignore food and run off after whatever is distracting her. The second she runs off, the labrador starts eating her food. Then she goes back to finish her own. And if I chase her out of the bowl, she will just wait until I’m not looking.

  6. I rescued a choc lab from a loving home who could no longer keep him .he weighed 37 kls i had him bout 3 wks when had to be treated for arthritus he is a heavy old traditional lab vet recomended he loose sum weight to help his joints that was 12 wks ago he now weighs 33.3 kl he gets 1 hr walk in daytime evryday and a 25 min walk after tea evry night i also changed his food to burns weight control he has 100g weighed for breakfast with about teaspoon full of cooked chicken and the same at night and about 4 small burns weight control treats during day he as been happy too vet said he doesnt need to loose anymor weight so this wk iv uped his meals to 110grm twice aday so just waiting a wk to see if hes lost any or gained as i dont want him to loose anymor this is the tricky bit getting right amount of food to keep him on 33.3 kl i do weigh him evry wed at vet so i can do any changes he looks happier and healthier and even looks younger in face now hes just turned 9yrs hes fab just thought id share our good work with you evry dogs different ect i think burns weight control is brill and he can stay on it

  7. My 5.5 years old lab is 115.6 pounds. But his vet always say that his weight is according to his size and he isn’t fat. He’s pretty active too. So, I don’t agree that maximum labrador weight is 80lbs. A 100+ pound heavyweight labrador can be healthy and active.

  8. The struggle is over and our Big Brown Coca Puppy,….Joe is no more….. We tried diets and it worked for a while but he would not feel well. Then we found a good place to take him swimming and he was doing mighty fine and he loved it and so did we! Then winter set in and no more swimming. Poor Joe was depressed on top of it all and so were we. His weight started to climb and the vet put the blame on me of course. His legs gave way to his age and got too hard to walk down or up stairs and in an out of the jeep. We gave him plenty of help but he struggled with it. Not being able to talk to us was difficult to understand what his needs were too. He was 25 lbs over weight and cutting back on his food just was a chore. I found little ways to make it work and trick Joe into thinking he was getting the most out of breakfast and supper. I divided his meals up so that he got small amounts but more often and he was happy with that. We just had to make a decision yesterday to end his life and it hurts so bad that we can barely talk about it. He just reached his 12 birthday and we were looking forwards to those up north swims that would make it all work again, which nearly got here on time. Joe was trying hard too. Yesterday he gave me those sideways looks like he knew it was coming to this…… We had one of those conversations where we look at each other and know what we are saying when my husband interrupted. We had to make a decision and I felt like one of those times when I am slipping down the side of a muddy ditch and someone is asking me something they need an answer for right then and there. Just help.

  9. Pedigree is no good, especially no good for weight loss. Kibble across the board has very high carbs. You need to feed a low carb diet and monitor the calories. I personally recommend BALANCED home cooked food, BALANCED home prepared raw or commercial raw. You will see the pounds drop, have a more energetic doggie, have a healthier doggy and most importantly he will live longer.

  10. We have a 4 year old American Lab. He’s about 95lbs. Fat. He’s also lazy. The vet suggested feeding him chicken and rice with vegetables- or other people food (red meat, potatoes, liver etc..) we’ve cut out processed dog food completely and he’s already shed weight and he’s much happier to receive his people food. His coat is also much healthier and shines.

  11. I have a 20 month old lab/golden mix with the opposite problem. He does come from american or “field” labrador lines, and as a young dog, he had chronic gastro issues which we have seem to have finally figured out, after extensive blood tests etc. He is now on a hydrolyzed protein, “hypoallergenic” diet (Royal Canin) which has worked wonders. He lost a lot of weight in the Fall during these sickness bouts. I was originally weary of putting him on Royal Canin, but with a new “lets do what works” motto, it has been the only food we’ve tried that has worked for him. He used to take 5 massive, runny poops a day, and now only has 3, smaller solid ones. Here is my issue; he is getting almost 5 cups a day (broken into 3 different meal times) which is a lot of food, even for his weight. I would like him to be around 75 – 77 lbs (he has a very tall, lanky and long frame). I can BARELY keep him at 73 lbs. His ribs are not visible, but almost. You run a hand over his sides and spine, and they’re RIGHT there. If he drops a pound or 2, he’ll look emaciated. The vet thinks he looks fabulous (they love seeing lean labs), and after deeming nothing wrong with him, they urge us to keep doing what we’re doing with the new food, keep him exercised etc. In your experience with labs, does weight gain tend to happen slowly? I simply cannot give him more food than what we’re giving him, I fear he will explode or bloat.

    • one word: bacon. unless against vet instructions of course, but otherwise, some kind ought to be okay, even if pork based is not. (to boost weight without any need to feed lot of food matter by mass.)

  12. We have a Black Lab/ Hog d dog mix. Ziggy is my life, we adopted him from the Humain Society just over 9 years ago. He had surgery twice within the last 6 years for cysts but weren’t cancer. He does have fatty by 40’s. He gets plenty of exercise in the afternoon hours, and he just loves the Snow. Should I be worried about these 40’s?

  13. I have a black lab golden cross, and she is almost 6 years old. She’s overweight, but no matter what I’ve tried or what the vet recommended is helping. They’ve done testing too, and have found nothing wrong. What is the best brand of dog food to feed her? My vet has her on Pedigree Healthy Weight, but reading the ingredients…it doesn’t seem so healthy to me.

  14. We have an English black lab very broad chest at his heaviest weighed 125 now down to 109 in 6 months 2-3 mile walk a day and 1 cup of healthy weight dog food in the am with a small dog treat same at night if you give your dog your left overs tone it down. Our dog used to get prime rib ect. Now he gets the last bite and that’s it.