Pets and Obesity: Fat-Shaming Animals

Has Obsession with Body Image Gone Too Far?

It’s no secret that our culture in the US is obsessed with body image. Entire magazines, websites, and pharmaceutical drugs devoted to being slim. Dare I say it, the Kardashians? [Shudder]. They are a perfect example of how visual and materialistic we are as a culture.


Obese animals
Fat-Shaming Animals- Has Obsession with Body Image Gone Too Far?


Equestrians among us know that breeches are perhaps the least forgiving item of clothing out there. As a mother of three, sometimes I dread donning them as much as I’m excited to ride. I will be the first to admit I’ve gained a little weight around my midsection with motherhood, age, and diet. And by diet I mean my propensity to eat like a teenager and drink too much Coca-Cola. As men and women we have ALL felt uncomfortable in our own skin at one time or other. It happens.


Sadly this isn’t limited to humans. We project our body image issues onto our animals. At the barn we joke that Chico has reached his winter weight and needs more exercise or that Delight needs to put on a few pounds so that his ribs aren’t as noticeable. When it is a matter of health and wellness, yes it is up to us to make sure our animals are at the proper weight and we should be concerned. But when does it become more than that? When does it become fat-shaming?

When Strangers Comment On A Pet’s Appearance To Insult the Owner

One of our canine massage clients is an adorable, senior beagle with arthritis. His family takes dogcations and enjoys hiking, so we wanted to make sure Jaxson was comfortable and could join the fun without causing injury or more inflammation.


Jetsetter Jaxson lounges by the fire pit while on dogcation. PC: Amy Schwebel
Jetsetter Jaxson lounges by the fire pit while on dogcation. PC: Amy Schwebel

Understandably with age (for all of us) comes a slowing of the metabolism. Over the past year, Jaxson has gained weight. When we started working with him our goal was to increase his metabolism, improve mobility, and reduce stiffness caused by his arthritis.


We discussed a portioned, quality diet and exercise regime with his owner.  He improved quickly. With one exception, his belly remained despite losing weight elsewhere. We all agreed it was best to have him checked again by his veterinarian.*


HIs owners are criticized and Jaxson made fun of because of his weight. Amy Schwebel, shocked me with a recent situation in front of her own home.


“So I was taking Jaxson for one of his walks when one of the nail technicians [from the neighboring salon] said ‘Your dog is cute – but boy is he FAT!’ I was so caught off guard I just replied ‘We are working on it’ and then kept walking because I could sense myself getting angry. After I had some time to reflect on what happened, I got REALLY angry. It wasn’t in a ‘I’m trying to help you understand your dog is overweight’ way. It was in a mean, blatantly rude way.”

— Amy Schwebel


Shocking! Maybe I’m naive but since when has fat shaming dogs become a thing? Would you walk up to a person on the street and tell them they are fat? Why is it okay for a stranger to say it your animal and sit in judgement of you as the owner.


Sadly, this isn’t even the only occurrence. She and her husband have encountered this from strangers and friends alike. Jaxson doesn’t know that people are making fun of him. What it does do instead is insult the owner. His fur parents are doing everything they can to make him healthy and happy.

“I think in general, whether it’s a friend or stranger, people are too quick to judge appearances without thinking about all the other potential things that could be going on.”

— Amy Schwebel


“Jaxson is older but we are very active with him, with all our pet-friendly vacations including a lot of physical activity in one way or another, so it was worrisome and confusing why he wasn’t losing weight from his stomach area”.


His veterinarian determined that not only does Jaxson have hypothyroidism, but also a mass on his liver. He now has to go through further tests to determine whether it’s malignant or benign. This mass is what is causing his belly to protrude in such a way people mistake for fat.


The criticism from others is that much more irritating- he has a medical issue.  Not, in fact, something anyone can fix with a diet or exercise. Regardless what makes it anyone else’s business? When did we start out trying to hurt people by picking on their pets?


Has your pet been fat-shamed?


*Bridle & Bone Wellness strongly believes if you have a question about your animal(s) health, always contact your veterinarian first to rule out a medical problem.

1 thought on “Pets and Obesity: Fat-Shaming Animals

  1. […] to tell me a story about a client of hers. I won’t go into all the details, as you can read it here, but long story short, someone had called her client’s dog “fat” when in turn, the poor dog […]

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