How To Help a Dog Lose Weight

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    In the United States, 56% of dogs are overweight or obese, and this extra weight is connected to a wide range of health issues. One reason for a pet obesity epidemic is due to the fact that us, as humans, often associate food with happiness and love. Giving dogs food including table scraps has often been a way that people have told their dogs that they love them. What they don’t know is that they may slowly be killing their dog. Getting started with weight loss for your dog can be difficult. Keep reading to learn more on how to help a dog lose weight.

    ​​How Do I Know If My Dog is Overweight?

    woman measure a corgi with a measuring tape to see if he needs to lose weight

    If you’re concerned that your dog has gained weight or just not sure if they’re at the right weight (instead of either over or underweight), you an follow some of these guidelines:

    Look at Your Dog From Above

    Examining your dog’s body form is one of the easiest methods to tell whether he or she is overweight. If you notice that your dog seems chubby and oval-shaped when viewed from above, it’s probable that your dog is overweight. If your dog, on the other hand, has a definite waist at the back and a straight build along the sides, they’re generally at a healthy weight.

    Feel Your Dog's Ribs

    The ribs of your dog should be visible without being hidden by a thick layer of fat. Your dog’s ribcage should feel like the back of your hand.

    Check The Tuck

    side view of a black dog showing a healthy tuck
    Photo Credit: Eromit Labrador Retrievers

    Look at your dog from the side and check if the chest is wider than the abdomen. The waist should be elevated or “tucked” up.

    Monitor Your Dog's Endurance and Energy

    Overweight dogs may have lower endurance levels. You dog may be puffing while walking or walking slower than they should be for their age and size. You could even notice your dog sleeping more than normal.

    The Body Condition Score

    The Body Condition Score (BCS) is a hands-on examination of your dog in which you then give them a score. It takes into account how easy your dog’s ribs and shoulder bones are to feel, if you can feel but not see your dog’s spine and hip bones, whether you can see your dog’s final rib, whether your dog has an hourglass form, and whether your dog has a distinct waist when seen from the side. After that, you may give your dog a score between 1 and 9 as follows:

    1 – 3: Underweight – Spine, ribs, and hip bones are plainly evident, there is minimal fat, and the waist is clearly seen.

    4 – 5: Ideal Weight – Spine, ribs, and hip bones are not visible but might be felt, properly proportioned, and a waistline can be seen.

    6 – 9: Overweight to Obese – Spine, ribs, and hip bones are not easily seen or felt, waist is barely visible or not visible at all, and visibility fat deposits on the waist, face, and limbs. are not easily seen or felt, waist is barely visible or not visible at all, and visibility fat deposits on the waist, face, and limbs.

    dog body condition score for dog weight loss
    Photo Credit: Nom Nom

    Why is a Healthy Weight in Dogs Important?

    Your dog is in danger of having major medical problems even if he or she is only five pounds overweight. Obesity in dogs is linked to numerous painful health conditions including but not limited to:

    • Type 2 Diabetes
    • Heart Disease
    • Osteoarthritis 
    • Joint Injuries 
    • High Blood Pressure
    • Certain Cancers

    Overweight or obese dogs often also have a shorter lifespan than their healthy-weight counterparts. Overweight dogs are usually also less energetic and playful, and they spend less time physically engaging with their owners. According to a study, dogs that are at a healthy weight live far longer than canines who are overweight.

    How To Help a Dog Lose Weight

    Prior to embarking on a weight loss plan, schedule your annual exam or standard appointment with your primary veterinarian. It’s possible that your dog may be suffering from an underlying health condition that’s causing the weight gain, especially if it’s sudden and there haven’t been any changes to your dog’s diet or lifestyle. 

    There are various ways you can help a dog lose weight, most of which can be done together for maximum results.

    Measure Food and Calories

    The nutrition info on the back of most dog foods provides inaccurate information on portion sizes by size. You can cut back on those a little and use a measuring cup to ensure correct measuring. Use the below chart to help figure out how many calories your dog should be ingesting to be able to lose weight. This may also vary on your dog’s current activity level. Your vet may also be able to help determine a preferred calorie intake for weight loss.



    Body Weight in PoundsPuppy Up To 4 MonthsPuppy Over 4 MonthsNeutered AdultIntact AdultObese ProneWeight Loss
    50 1458116613121021729
    55 1566125314091096783
    60 1670133615031169835
    65 1774141915971242887
    70 1876150116881313938
    75 1976158117781383988
    80 20741659186714521037
    85 21701736195315191085
    90 22641811203815851132
    95 23581886212216511179
    100 24501960220517151225
    Chart courtesy of Animal Medical Center of Chicago 


    Diet Dog Food

    beagle eating out of a bowl

    There are multiple diet dog foods available that are effective for dogs that need to shed only a little amount of weight. However, if your dog has to lose a substantial amount of weight or has other medical concerns, these diets are frequently not as successful as veterinarian weight reduction programs. 

    Because not all weight reduction tactics work for every dog, there are a variety of diets to choose from. Some diet dog foods, like Purina Proplan OM and Royal Canin Calorie Control, are low carbohydrate, high protein, while others, like Royal Canin Satiety and Hills Prescription Diet w/d, are high in fiber which can help your dog feel full. Your veterinarian can direct you to a proper diet dog food based on your dog’s current health condition.

    Increase Water Intake

    Water fills up dogs just like it does for humans and they may turn to water when hungry. Keeping the dog bowl full of freshwater can help increase their hydration levels and reduce the feeling of hunger.

    Increased Exercise

    bulldog running to lose weight

    You should try and have vigorous exercise with y our dog two times every day, strive for fifteen minutes. It’s as easy as increasing the speed of your everyday stroll to help a dog lose weight and get back in shape. The typical speed of people walking with their dogs is 20 to 25 minutes per mile, which is considered a “stroll”. Walking for weight reduction is not the same as walking for fun. You should gradually raise your dog’s exercise level to assist them to lose weight. Begin by adding a few blocks to your daily and nightly walks, gradually increasing the pace and distance as you both get fitter.

    If you personally have restricted mobility, consider a game like a fetch or hide-and-seek, which will get your dog moving while you stay relatively still. Hydration is just as important for dogs as it is for humans, so make sure your dog drinks enough water when exercising. If your dog is the one with mobility issues, consider swimming as a form of exercise. Hydrotherapy is a fantastic form of exercise that is light on the joints.

    Reduce Unhealthy Treats

    Dogs are often given numerous treats per day without the calorie count being counted towards their daily calorie intake. Certain treats contain a high amount of calories and those add up fast. If you want to give your dog treats or they are used to them for certain tasks, consider switching to fruits and vegetables. For picky eaters, you can soak them in bone or chicken broth overnight to encourage them. 

    Use Slow-Feeders or Interactive Food Puzzles

    Skip the traditional dish and feed your pet with a slow feeder or puzzle/interactive toy to slow down their eating and make them feel full quickly. Adding water to their food is another strategy to slow down their eating.

    How Can You Prevent Your Dog From Gaining Weight?

    Ensuring that your dog is eating the correct amount of calories they need on a daily basis can help your dog from gaining unnecessary weight. If you’re unsure what that amount is, you can follow this equation:

    RER in kcal/day = (ideal or target weight in kg ^ 0.75) x 70 OR 30 x (body weight in kg) +70

    To determine your dog’s weight in kilograms, divide its weight in pounds by 2.2. So, a 10-pound dog weighs 4.5kg and a 50-pound dog weighs 22.7kg. ~ Pet Keen

    You can also use a suggested calorie intake calculator for a more accurate measurement.

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