Is your dog overweight? Does he need to lose a couple of pounds? If so, you’re not alone. According to the folks that study these things such as the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention https://petobesityprevention.org/, an estimated 56 percent of dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese. As you can guess, being overweight is not good for your dog’s health. There are a number of things you can do to help your dog lose weight. We can help you find the best dog foods for weight loss, too.
Leaner is better for your dog
Studies have shown that dogs that are overweight or obese live shorter lives. In one life-time study conducted by Purina, dogs maintained in lean body condition throughout their lives lived 15 percent longer – 1.8 years – than other dogs in the study. All of the Labrador Retrievers in the study ate the same food. The difference was that the control group was allowed to eat an unlimited amount of food during the 15-minute daily feedings. Dogs in the lean-fed group were fed 26 percent less than their littermates. The median lifespan of the control group dogs was 11.2 years. The median lifespan of the lead-fed group was 13 years.
You don’t have to feed your dog Purina to use these findings. The takeaway message is that keeping your dog lean throughout his life will help him live longer.
How does being overweight affect your dog?
Along with having a shorter lifespan, dogs that are overweight have an increased risk for developing serious health issues. Diabetes, arthritis, orthopedic disease and mobility problems, high blood pressure, kidney disease, skin disease, cancer, and respiratory problems are all more common in dogs that are overweight or obese. Metabolic and endocrine disorders are also more common in overweight dogs. If your dog needs to have any kind of surgery, being overweight increases the risks.
Dogs that are overweight or obese can also have a lower quality of life. Not only is their life shorter than it could be but they are often unable to do some of the enjoyable things that a more active dog could do. An overweight dog may huff and puff if he has to walk up stairs. In some cases, just going outside to relieve himself can become difficult.
How can you tell if your dog is overweight?
There are several ways to tell if your dog is overweight. While breeds and body types differ, with most dogs you should be able to feel the ribs without seeing them. (If you have a Saluki, Afghan Hound, or some other sighthounds, you should even be able to see the dog’s hip bones. This is normal for these breeds.) Most dogs should have a “tuck up” behind the ribs. This is the dog’s waist. If your dog looks more like a tank and you can’t find his ribs, it’s likely that he is overweight.
You can also find charts https://www.wsava.org/WSAVA/media/Arpita-and-Emma-editorial/Body-Condition-Score-Dog.pdf online that show a dog’s body condition when he’s skinny, in good condition, and fat.
If you have a purebred dog or a dog that resembles a purebred, you can find pictures online of what these dogs are supposed to look like in good condition.
You can also ask your veterinarian if your dog is overweight.
What can you do to help your overweight or obese dog?
If your dog is overweight or obese you should start by seeing your veterinarian. Your vet can also confirm that your dog is overweight, if you have any doubts. Unfortunately, research shows that most owners don’t realize that their dogs are overweight. Whenever you visit the vet with your dog it’s a good idea to ask if your dog is a good weight or if he needs to lose a little weight.
Being overweight is usually caused by overeating – but not always. There can be some other reasons why a dog gains weight.
- Spaying/neutering (leads to metabolic changes)
- Pancreatic Cancer (Insulinoma)
- Cushing’s Disease (Hyperadrenocorticism)
Your vet can also rule out a health problem in your dog. If your dog is diagnosed with a health problem, it’s important to have it treated. Proper treatment will not only help your dog’s health but it should address your dog’s weight problems.
If your dog doesn’t have any underlying health problems, talk to your vet about his weight. Your vet may have some good suggestions. S/he could recommend a good weight loss dog food or some ways to increase your dog’s exercise regimen.
Along with overeating, and often accompanying it, is a lack of sufficient exercise. Many urban dogs, especially, may not get enough opportunity to run and exercise regularly. However, even dogs that live in the suburbs or in rural areas may not get as much exercise as they need. Not all dogs are good at self-exercising, especially as they mature. Puppies usually have lots of energy to burn but adult dogs can be more content to sleep all day. If your dog is overweight, it’s a good idea to get out the leash and start taking some daily walks with him. You might need to start off with short walks if your dog is obese. You can build up to longer walks as your dog’s stamina improves. As your dog loses weight and becomes more fit you can try to get him interested in playing fetch or chasing a ball.
Helping your dog lose weight
There are several good ways to help your dog lose weight.
- Reduce the amount of food you give your dog. Since most dogs are overweight or obese because they eat too much, reducing the amount of food you give your dog is often the first step in helping your dog lose weight. There is no need to drastically cut your dog’s rations but cutting his food back in small steps will slowly help him lose weight. This method works best if your dog only needs to lose a small amount of weight.
- Measure your dog’s food. Dogs that are free fed, with food available 24/7, are more likely to become overweight than dogs that have scheduled meals. That’s because they can eat all the time or snack whenever they feel like it. Instead of leaving food sitting out all the time, measure your dog’s portions and feed your dog on a schedule. Leave the food out for your dog for 15-20 minutes and then put it away until you feed the next meal. Making this change will help your dog lose weight.
- Feed several small meals. Feeding your dog several small meals instead of two bigger meals per day can help him get through any hunger cravings. Ask anyone that has been on a diet. Multiple small meals help.
- Cut back on snacks and treats. Most owners don’t realize how many calories treats and snacks contain but they can rapidly cause a dog to gain weight. You can help your dog lose weight by reducing the snacks and treats. If you want to give your dog treats, give him something healthy like small pieces of apple, carrot, or banana. These fruits and vegetables don’t have many calories and most dogs like them.
- If your dog needs to lose a lot of weight, look for a good weight control dog food.
Weight control dog foods
Weight control, weight management, or weight loss dog foods can vary, depending on the brand. In general, these foods have fewer calories and less fat than regular dog foods. They sometimes have more carbohydrates and/or fiber than other dog foods. Some weight control foods can be relatively low in protein. Many weight loss foods include the amino acid compound L-Carnitine which is found in meat, fish, and dairy products. It’s helpful in weight management foods because it helps burn fat.
Some experts suggest that diets that are higher in protein are better for weight loss. These diets also help maintain lean muscle mass.
While weight control dog foods that are low in fat might seem like the obvious choice to help dogs lose weight, if the food is too low in fat, they can fail. Fat in dog food is usually what makes the food tasty and appealing to dogs. If a reduced fat dog food is too low in fat, your dog might not eat it; or you can count on your dog begging for food between meals. Chances are that you will end up feeding him between meals or changing dog foods. A fat percentage (dry matter basis) between 12 and 16 percent is usually recommended for dogs seeking to lose weight.
Many Royal Canin weight control dog foods depend on high fiber. Although we usually think Royal Canin is a good brand, unless your veterinarian recommends one of these foods, we think that it is best to avoid dog foods that have very high fiber percentages. High fiber would be over five or six percent (dry matter basis). More fiber won’t necessarily make your dog feel more satisfied and it can interfere with the absorption of nutrients.
You can expect most weight control dog foods to be higher in carbohydrates than regular dog foods. Dogs can use energy from either fat or carbs. When the fat is reduced, dog food companies usually turn to carbs as an energy source.
Remember that weight loss foods are specialized diets so the ingredients may not always meet some of the ordinary recommendations for dog foods.
Best dog foods for weight loss
Hill’s Science Diet Adult Perfect Weight Chicken Recipe Dry Dog Food
Hill’s Science Diet Adult Perfect Weight Chicken Recipe Dry Dog Food features real chicken as the first ingredient to help your dog maintain lean muscle. It also includes prebiotic fibers for gentle digestion. A clinically-proven blend of antioxidants with vitamins C and E helps support a healthy immune system. More than 70 percent of dogs fed this diet lose weight in 10 weeks. Made with easy-to-digest ingredients, this food contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
Eukanuba Small Breed Adult Weight Control Dry Dog Food
Eukanuba Small Breed Adult Weight Control Dry Dog Food is just one of the many foods Eukanuba makes for dogs based on size, breed, and lifestage. This formula is made specifically for small breed dogs. Real chicken is the first ingredient. The food contains zero fillers and has 33 percent less fat than the brand’s regular small breed adult formula. The 3D DentaDefense formula helps clean teeth, fresh breath, and maintain healthy gums for good oral health. This is an easy-to-digest formula with natural fier and a blend of probiotics. This small breed formula also contains natural sources of glucosamine, chondroitin, and calcium for strong joints and bones. Guaranteed antioxidant levels help build your dog’s immune system.
Victor Senior Healthy Weight Dry Dog Food
Victor dog foods have become very popular in a relatively short period of time. Victor Senior Healthy Weight Dry Dog Food is nutrient-dense with glucosamine and chondroitin for long-term joint health. It contains L-Carnitine to help convert fat to energy for lean muscle development. This is a good dog food for less active senior dogs that need to lose a little weight. It is made with gluten-free grains and it’s made up of 78 percent meat protein from premium quality beef, chicken, fish, and pork meals.
Purina Pro Plan Savor Adult Shredded Blend Weight Management Formula Dry Dog Food
Purina Pro Plan makes a number of very good quality products and Savor is one of their popular formulas. Pro Plan Savor Adult Shredded Blend Weight Management Formula Dry Dog Food uses real chicken as the first ingredient. It has 25 percent less fat than other Savor shredded formulas. The food includes natural prebiotic fiber sourced form wheat bran and it works to support beneficial bacteria in your dog’s intestinal tract, helping to promote his digestive health. This low-fat diet is specifically formulated to help your dog achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Savor has kibble that is both crunchy and tender which many dogs really like. Strong antioxidants support your dog’s immune system. Optimal protein and fat levels promote your dog’s ideal body. Omega-6 fatty acids help maintain healthy skin and coat. This dog food contains no added artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Purina Pro Plan Focus formula dog foods also have a good weight management dog food. Purina ONE SmartBlend Healthy Weight Adult Formula Adult Formula Dry Dog Food is another good food to consider.
Hill’s Prescription Diet w/d Multi-Benefit Digestive/Weight/Glucose/Urinary Management Chicken Flavor Dry Dog Food
If your dog is seriously overweight or obese, he might need a prescription weight loss dog food. There are several such foods, depending on whether your dog has any accompanying health issues. Hill’s and Royal Canin, in particular, make many prescription dog foods for weight loss. One food that is popular and effective is Hill’s Prescription diet w/d Multi-Benefit Digestive/Weight/Glucose/Urinary Management Chicken Flavor Dry Dog Food. Prescription Diet w/d promotes healthy digestion and helps dogs maintain normal blood glucose levels. The food also helps to metabolize fat and maintain lean muscle. It helps your dog maintain a healthy weight. It contains added antioxidants to control cell oxidation for a healthy immune system. It also has high levels of L-Carnitine to increase your dog’s energy metabolism and burn fat while increasing lean muscle mass.
Most dogs will live longer and stay healthier if they are leaner. If your dog is overweight or obese, try to take some sensible steps to help him lose weight. Keep in mind that your dog did not become overweight quickly so don’t expect him to lose weight fast. Cutting back on his regular food or changing to a good weight control diet can do wonders.