What To Do About An Overweight Pitbull

We all love our dogs very much, but sometimes all that love can lead to overfeeding and weight gain. Other times, maybe you rescued a pit bull, or inherited one, and the dog that arrived was a little bigger than expected.

While not the highest contenders, pit bulls are one of those dog breeds that are prone to getting a little chubby. Their stocky build means that fat is more likely to build up and be noticeable, but don’t worry; you can help them get back to a healthy weight.

How Do I Tell If My Pitbull is Overweight?

This is a good question because unless your pit bull is obese, it may be hard to tell how much chub is too much, especially on stockier bloodlines such as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

Overweight white pitbull


Though pit bulls may come in a variety of shapes and sizes, all of them are regarded as ‘medium size dogs.’ Puppies will gain between 5 - 10 pounds per month for the first year of their life, so you don’t need to worry about them.

Dr. Aliyah Diamond of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine put the healthy weight for a full grown pit bull at around an average weight of 35 - 60 pounds (16 - 27kg) for a male Pitbull, and 30 - 50 pounds (14 - 23kg) for a female Pitbull. [1]

A pit bull will stop growing at around 18 months and finish filling out by around 2 years.

However, weight isn’t always the best measure since a very muscular pit bull may weigh a lot despite being quite lean. Certain health conditions, such as heart defects, can also cause swelling that can add to your dog’s weight.


The shape of your pit bull is often a better indicator of a healthy weight than just weight alone. Many vets use the Dog Condition Chart to determine how healthy a dog’s shape is. [2]

#1 Ribs

You should be able to see a clearly defined ribcage, especially if your pit bull has a short coat. You should also be able to feel a small layer of fat over their bones, but still be able to feel their ribs through this layer.

If the layer is very thick, you have to push to feel a rib, or if there is a layer of fat on top of the spine - then you have a fat pit bull.

#2 A Defined Waist

Pit bulls are quite stocky, but if you are looking at them from above, you should still be able to see a waist between their ribcage and hips clearly. If you are looking at them from the side, then their waist should also taper up from their ribs.

A distended stomach may not just be fat. However, if it's still a problem after a few days or if there are no signs of illness and your pit bull has some of the other signs of being overweight, then that's probably the case.

Pitbulls in Sparkpaw's knit sweater

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#3 Exhaustion

If your pit bull looks a bit chubby, and starts panting and struggling to breath, even when lying down, then that could be a sign that they’re no longer a healthy weight. Healthy, active dogs should only be panting after exercise, when excited, or when they’re hot.

This is not a good sign, as it means that the dog’s body is already taking strain from the excess weight and putting pressure on their heart and lungs. [3]

What Do I Do?

A fat Pitbull may look cute, but being overweight comes with many health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, joint problems, and an increased risk of developing certain cancers.

Dogs get fat for many of the same reasons we do. This normally means too many calories, not enough exercise, or a health condition.

A Balanced Diet

It may be instinct to many Pitbull owners to simply slash portion sizes, and this may be appropriate at times, but it is just a short term solution. 

You need to work on finding a balanced and nutritious diet. This normally involves keeping track of calories, as well as getting good quality dog food or making it yourself. A balanced diet should have a good balance between carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

While treats can easily be a part of a good diet, you are still adding more food to the mix.

Be careful of giving treats that are high in carbs or sugars, as this can add up quickly, especially if you are busy training your dog. There are lower calorie options available, such as boiled chicken or bully sticks.

It is also a very bad idea to allow your pit bull to beg human food off you at the table. This food is often high in calories and can add up quickly. It is a good idea to explain to your family when your dog is on a diet, as well as what and how much is appropriate for them to hand out.

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How Often Should I Be Feeding My Fat Pitbull?

You shouldn’t be feeding a fat Pitbull less than any other dog, it is better to adjust their portion size or cut down on extra food.

Many vets, such as Dr. Ryan Llera, BSc, DVM, a veterinarian from Kingston Veterinary Clinic, and who has been a vet for nearly two decades, recommends feeding your adult dogs at least twice a day on a set schedule. [4]

According to Dr. Llera, “Feeding an adult dog at regular times provides the security and predictability of a routine.” It lets you see when they aren’t feeling well enough to eat.

Dr. Llera and many other vets discourage letting your dog ‘free feed’. Free feeding is when you leave food out constantly for your dogs to use as they please.

Some dogs may be able to regulate their eating and stop when full, but others may binge or snack throughout the day, robbing you of the ability to monitor and control their diet. An overweight dog should never be allowed to free feed.

An adult pit bull should be getting around 2 to 3 cups of food a day, or around 30-40 calories per pound of bodyweight. This means that if your pit bull is 40 pounds (An average weight), they would need around 1400 calories per day.

White pittie with a raw meat diet


Pit bulls are quite active and need a lot of exercise. The recommended amount of regular exercise for an adult pit bull is around 1 - 2 hours every day. This can either be combined into one large stretch or split up.

Pit bulls are social when it comes to owners, and generally exercise better when with owners, such as on walks or hikes, as opposed to just being left in a backyard.

However, be careful when exercising a sedentary, fat Pitbull for the first time.

Dr. Jacqueline Davidson, Clinical Track Professor at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, says “If the dog is sedentary and you expect it to run for several miles or play vigorously for 30 minutes, injury may result if the dog is not physically conditioned for the sport or activity,” [5]

She also recommends setting a structured ‘date’ with your dog and doing something fun with them. 

Dr. Davidson says, “For dogs, the choices are easy. They enjoy almost anything you enjoy doing,” said Davidson. This can include “walking, running, playing with a ball or Frisbee, agility training, and even such sports as canicross and bikejoring” 

Potential Health Concerns

If - despite your best efforts - your pit bull seems unable to lose weight, then it might be because of underlying health issues.

Healthy white Pitbull wearing a Sparkpaws harness

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Health issues that cause weight gain can include -

- Heart defects

- Diabetes Mellitus

- Liver Disease

- Hypothyroidism (A defect in the thyroid gland that affects metabolic hormone production)

If exercise and dieting aren’t helping your pit bull lose weight, then it may be a good idea to have a vet check them or request a blood test to make sure your dog doesn’t have any of these conditions. 

Your pit bull can still be a healthy weight with these conditions, but it may involve treating the problem first.

How Do I Keep My Pit Bull Lean and Muscular?

If your pit bull is already in the healthy range and you want to keep them fighting fit, the rules are largely the same.

Dogs that are muscular or building muscles should be fed more protein in their diet. Proteins are the building blocks of muscles and should be widely available in their diet. Carbs are fine, too, as long as your dog is able to burn them off.

Start with regular exercise, such as walking or running, before slowly increasing the difficulty. Later on, you can try weight training in the form of hill running, cart pulling, running on sand, or jumping onto platforms.


Pit bulls are, unfortunately, prone to getting chubby. This is normally a result of overeating, not exercising enough, or an underlying health condition

An adult pit bull should roughly weigh between 30 and 60 pounds, but a more accurate way to tell if they’re overweight is through the body condition method.

This is done by checking the amount of fat on the ribs and back, as well as if there is a clearly defined waist.

Dogs should eat around two meals a day at a set interval. You can monitor a diet by carefully calculating how many calories you are giving your dog each day, including treats.

Be careful of feeding them human foods or very rich, high-calorie treats. Free feeding, the act of leaving food in the bowl all day, is also not recommended.

Healthy white Pitbull wearing a Sparkpaws harness

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All adult pitties should get around an hour or two of exercise each day, and the most effective exercise is normally done with an owner.

You can change things up and add some fun activities to make it better for both of you. Owners who would like a more muscular pit bull can try adding some resistance training, such as box jumping.

Health issues that can cause excess weight gain include diseases such as liver disease, heart disease, diabetes, and hypothyroidism. Oftentimes the weight issue will resolve after your pittie has been diagnosed and treated, otherwise, a vet might be able to provide a more detailed plan.

Regardless, the basics of eat-less-exercise-more are some of the best solutions to a chubby pup. Walking the dog more has also been proven to improve the wellbeing and mental health of owners too. 

If you want to go on more walks in style and safety, consider checking out Sparkpaws’ harness collection. The bright, comfortable, and stylish harnesses are designed with large dogs like pit bulls in mind and offer you more control on your walks.

Happy walking!

Ext Links

[1] https://www.pawlicy.com

[2] https://www.petmd.com

[3] https://www.animalhumanesociety.org.

[4] https://vcahospitals.com

[5] https://vetmed.tamu.edu