Critical illness is a major cause of morbidity and mortality around the world. While obesity is often detrimental in the context of trauma, it is paradoxically associated with improved outcomes in some septic patients. The reasons for these disparate outcomes are not well understood. A number of animal models have been used to study the obese response to various forms of critical illness. Just as there have been many animal models that have attempted to mimic clinical conditions, there are many clinical scenarios that can occur in the highly heterogeneous critically ill patient population that occupies hospitals and intensive care units. This poses a formidable challenge for clinicians and researchers attempting to understand the mechanisms of disease and develop appropriate therapies and treatment algorithms for specific subsets of patients, including the obese. The development of new, and the modification of existing animal models, is important in order to bring effective treatments to a wide range of patients. Not only do experimental variables need to be matched as closely as possible to clinical scenarios, but animal models with pre-existing comorbid conditions need to be studied. This review briefly summarizes animal models of hemorrhage, blunt trauma, traumatic brain injury, and sepsis. It also discusses what has been learned through the use of obese models to study the pathophysiology of critical illness in light of what has been demonstrated in the clinical literature.