Weight Loss Diet For Dogs

Weight loss diet for dogs
Weight loss diet for dogs

Welcome to Weight Loss Diet For Dogs, the 3rd installment of the 4-part Dog Weight Loss Guide. After learning the steps for planning a weight loss diet for your dog, continue along the journey for a 4-Week Obese Dog Exercise Plan:

Dog weight loss guide journey:

Weight Loss Diet For Dogs

A dog’s dietary needs are similar to ours. A well-rounded, balanced diet of protein, carbs, and calories should sustain their daily energy output. But, with no Fitbit or Apple Watch to help, how many calories does your dog burn daily? How much should you feed an overweight dog?

When planning a weight loss diet for dogs, you can’t rely solely on recommended calories by weight — a result often found when searching for how much your dog should eat.

Only through a consistent diet and exercise routine — coupled with weekly weigh-ins — is it possible to discover your dog’s ideal weight loss diet.

This article will help you tailor your dog’s weight loss diet to their specific needs. By the end, you’ll be ready to implement a weight loss diet and exercise plan to restore your dog to a healthy weight safely.

  1. Understanding dog weight gain
  2. Step 1: Measure your dog’s calorie intake
  3. Step 2: Starting your dog’s diet
  4. Step 3: Check progress and adjust
  5. Healthy snack alternatives

Understanding dog weight gain

The most common cause of obesity in dogs is overeating and lack of exercise. Like people, if dogs consume more calories than they burn, the excess calories will be stored as fat.

Furthermore, many store-bought kibbles are high in refined carbohydrates. These simple carbs — like fructose and glucose — are digested quickly to be used for energy, leading to a spike in blood sugar and insulin levels. 

If you purchase a weight management dietary food, you won’t have to do anything else, right? Unfortunately, it’s never that easy.

In a survey by The American Pet Products Association, only 23% of dog owners found dietary dog foods effective. That’s because diet guidelines alone are not impactful. 

Plus, several factors outside of your control can impact your dog’s weight.

Consider age and breed when planning a weight loss program

Age and genetics influence weight more than most dog owners believe. Active dog breeds, like Border Collies, and Australian Shepherds, can run several miles a day herding livestock and still have energy remaining. If they don’t get two hours of exercise a day bad behaviors and obesity can start.

Likewise, obesity is common in other breeds. Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers suffer from a gene deletion — Proopiomelanocortin (POMC) — responsible for regulating appetite. If you don’t control their portions, both breeds are prone to over-eating.

When creating a weight loss plan, consider your dog’s age. Losing weight as a 40-year-old isn’t as easy as in our twenties — dogs are no different.

As dogs reach their senior years — typically around six to ten — their metabolism slows along with their energy and activity levels. Expect a more gradual weight loss, and don’t overexert your senior dog with vigorous exercise.

Medical conditions can cause weight gain

If diet and exercise have remained constant, but you continue to struggle with your dog’s weight gain, it’s time to consider the potential of medical conditions. Conditions like hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease affect hormones that control a dog’s metabolism.

Affecting the thyroid gland, the most common symptom of hypothyroidism is weight gain. Consider having your dog screened for hypothyroidism if they’re acting sluggish and gaining weight without an increase in appetite.

Thankfully, Cushing’s disease is rare, with less than one percent of dogs being diagnosed with this hormonal disease. On average, Cushing’s disease is diagnosed at 10.9 years of age and is more common in mixed breeds.

Weight loss diet for dogs. A corgi laying on a bed of kibble.

Planning your dog’s weight loss plan

Step 1: Measure your dog’s daily caloric intake

To identify if your dog is consuming too many calories, start by counting your dog’s daily caloric intake. The Food And Drug Administration (FDA) made this easy by requiring dog food manufacturers to list the calories in standard household units, usually kcal/8 oz cup.

1 calorie of human food = 1 kilocalorie for dogs

Work through your regular daily routine without any changes — including any human foods, dog snacks, or supplements you regularly give your dog.

Once you determine your dog’s average daily caloric intake, reference it against a calorie serving size calculator to determine if your dog is consuming too many calories.

Approximate daily caloric needs for dogs (at ideal weight & neutered/spayed):
  • 10lbs. 303 calories
  • 20lbs. 514 calories
  • 30lbs. 694 calories
  • 40lbs. 860 calories
  • 50lbs. 1019 calories
  • 70lbs. 1312 calories
  • 90lbs 1582 calories

Considering your dog’s body condition score and excess weight, the amount of calories decreases significantly. Notice the difference in calories when you adjust their body condition score to seven and add twenty percent to their body weight:

Approximate daily caloric needs for dogs (20 percent overweight & neutered/spayed):
  • Current/ideal weight: 12lbs/10lbs. 202 calories
  • Current/ideal weight: 24lbs/20lbs. 332 calories
  • Current/ideal weight: 36lbs/30lbs. 451 calories
  • Current/ideal weight: 48lbs/40lbs. 558 calories
  • Current/ideal weight: 60lbs/50lbs. 660 calories
  • Current/ideal weight: 84lbs/70lbs. 849 calories
  • Current/ideal weight: 108lbs/90lbs 1025 calories

If you discover your dog is exceeding their daily suggested calories, you have a clear path to reducing your dog’s weight; more exercise or fewer calories.

Your next steps to start your dog on a path to weight loss will be:

  1. Weekly weigh-ins to track progress.
  2. Stopping or switching all snacks to healthy fruits and vegetables.
  3. Reducing the calories in their regular meals.
  4. Make gradual adjustments until you reach a safe 1% to 1.5% decline in body weight each week.

40% of dog owners admit they don’t walk their dogs regularly — if your dog is primarily inactive, it’s vital to begin an exercise routine.

If you determine calories and exercise are not the cause, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for a full screening.

Step 2: Starting your dog’s diet

The only way to determine the perfect amount of diet and exercise is by trial. That’s why, throughout your dog’s diet, it’s essential to keep track of their weekly weight progress. 

By having weekly weigh-ins, you can make minor adjustments to their diet until they reach a healthy level of consistent weight loss. 

How do you weigh your dog at home?

If your dog is like mine, having her step and stay on the veterinarian scale is a battle. Unless your dog is a 150lb Great Pyrenese, there’s an easy method to weigh your dog at home.

Grab your scale and set it on a flat surface to first weigh yourself. Write down or remember your exact weight, then pick up your dog to weigh the two of you combined.

Once you subtract your weight from the combined weight, you have your dog’s approximate weight. 

If your dog is purebred, use our breed book to research their breed characteristics and find their standard breed weight. The low-end of the range is for females, with males in the mid to high range.

Maintain a regular exercise schedule

Since the goal is determining your dog’s ideal calorie intake, keeping a consistent calorie output is crucial.

With daily walks and regular playtime, the only variable that can impact your dog’s weight is the amount of food they consume. Once you break that routine and exercise decreases in the following week, you lose your baseline in determining if you are on the correct diet path. 

Transitioning to weight-management foods

It’s essential to ease your dog into new food slowly. Transitioning foods over seven to nine days will prevent diarrhea and vomiting from an upset stomach.

Seven days is usually fine, but if your dog has a sensitive stomach, it’s best to prolong the transition.

Follow this schedule when introducing a new kibble:
  • 75% old food, 25% new food for three to four days
  • 50% old food, 50% new food for three to four days
  • 25% old food, 75% new food for three to four days
  • 100% new food

Weight management foods list the feeding instructions in weight loss and maintenance servings. The flexibility is helpful because your dog can stay on the same food — with an increased serving size — after reaching their weight loss goal.

With increased exercise and weight-management food, be sure your dog receives enough protein in their diet.

Many weight management dog foods need to be prescribed by a veterinarian. Visiting your veterinarian for a check-up and the right diet food for your dog is best.

Step 3: Checking progress and making adjustments

Decreasing your dog’s diet and increasing their exercise alone is not sufficient. Managing your dog’s weight loss involves progress checks and making minor adjustments when needed.

After the first two weekly weigh-ins, it might be time to adjust your dog’s diet or exercise.

By this time, you have:

  1. Received a check-up by your veterinarian
  2. Determined your dog’s daily caloric intake
  3. Weighed your dog
  4. Started a regular exercise routine
  5. Transitioned to a weight management diet
  6. Tracked weekly progress

Here’s how to tell if the weight loss diet is going well and steps to take if your dog is losing too little or too much weight.

How much weight should your dog be losing? 

A healthy weight loss for dogs is 1 percent to 1.5 percent weekly — roughly 0.35lbs to 0.5lbs for a 35lb dog.

What do you do if your dog is losing more or less weight? You must consider several factors and make a judgment decision.

If your dog is morbidly obese, excess weight loss in the first few weeks is normal. Excessive weight loss is also common when human foods or high-calorie snacks were a staple of their diet. The sudden and significant decrease in calories will cause rapid weight loss.

Consider the following if your dog is losing too much weight:
  • Is my dog over-exercising? Most dog breeds only require thirty minutes to an hour of exercise daily. Signs of overexertion include lethargy, excessive panting, trouble or slowness getting up, and sleeping more than usual. Shorten their walks for the next week and recheck their progress.
  • Is my dog not eating enough? If your active dog loves their new exercise routine and still shows excitement and energy throughout the day, consider adding healthy, high-protein snacks or more food to their diet.
My dog isn’t losing enough weight or is gaining weight:
  • How much exercise is your dog receiving daily? Exercise should be a combination of daily walks and playtime. At a minimum, your dog should receive thirty minutes of exercise daily. If weather constraints are preventing walks, consider introducing indoor exercises.
  • Is your dog overeating? It would be best to consider a diet change only after determining they receive the correct amount of exercise. If their exercise program is enough, ask the following questions:
    • Are you tracking snack intake?
    • Are you using a measuring cup for meals?
    • Is your dog getting into trash or food?

Be cautious of increasing exercise for senior dogs or toy breeds. Over-exertion can lead to joint damage or overheating.

Following these feeding tips will help with their diet:
  • Slow down your dog’s eating by serving in two portions, or use a slow feeder dog bowl to help them feel full and better digest their food.
  • In multi-dog households, feed your dogs separately.
  • Split meals into small portions and feed with more frequency.
  • Use a measuring cup for every meal.
  • Make sure your dog has fresh water at all times.
Do not:
  • Give your dog scraps of human food.
  • Use a self-feeder.
healthy snacks for dog weight loss. A jack russell runs across its backyard with a full carrot, including stalk, in its mouth.
healthy snacks for dog weight loss.

Healthy snack replacements

Sometimes, snacks are unavoidable. Like when you need to hide medication or your dog is accustomed to rewards after treatments — like ear cleaning or teeth brushing.

Plus, the disappointing face of saying NO to your dog when they earn a treat is heartbreaking. Thankfully, many natural healthy snacks for people are also great for dogs. 

The sweet blueberry is only one calorie each, plus rich in antioxidants. Carrots are high in fiber, making the treat both healthy and filling. 

Replace high-calorie dog treats with these healthy snack alternatives:

  • Carrot sticks
  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini
  • Pumpkin
  • Apple slices
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cranberries
  • Watermelon

Not all fruits and vegetables are safe. Here’s a list by the ASPCA of people foods to avoid feeding your dog.

When considering giving your dog people food, remember that one ounce of cheddar cheese for a 20lb dog is equal to one and a half hamburgers for a person.

Final thoughts

Maintaining a healthy diet is the easiest part of dog weight loss. You’ve completed most of the work once you substitute treats for low-calorie fruits and vegetables and transition to a weight management food.

But, spending the time and effort determining their calorie intake before the diet starts and tracking weekly progress makes all the difference.

What’s the perfect weight loss diet for dogs? A diet that’s:

  • Based on calculated calorie intake
  • Carefully measured daily
  • Calculates weekly weight loss progress
  • Includes a balance of high-protein, low-calorie, and low simple carbohydrates
  • Replaces manufactured dog treats for whole foods like fruits and vegetables
  • Paired with regular daily exercise

Our dogs are family, best friends, and loving companions. The time we spend with them is precious and not long enough.

Studies have shown obesity can reduce a dog’s lifespan by as much as two and a half years. Obese dogs are also more likely to develop diabetes and other severe diseases.

When you wake up tomorrow, start calculating the calories your dog consumes. It’s the first step to extending your time together.

Are you starting your dog’s weight loss diet tomorrow? Share this story, and keep us updated on your progress.

Weight Loss Diet For Dogs is the 3rd installment of the 4-part Dog Weight Loss Guide. Continue along the journey for a 4-Week Obese Dog Exercise Plan:
4-Week Obese Dog Exercise Plan
4-week obese dog exercise plan: A Pembrook Corgi walks on a raised seat around a public fountain.

Obesity can take 2.5 years off your dog’s life. Jump start your dog’s weight-loss journey with this 4-Week Obese Dog Exercise Plan.

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