How to help a dog lose weight
Did you know that more than half of the dogs in the United States are overweight? Fortunately, there are things you can do to help your dog lose weight.
I thought I’d done everything right with Callie, my Labrador Retriever. Unfortunately, at her one year vet check, it was embarrassing to hear my veterinarian tell me my puppy was a little on the chunky side and needed to lose a few pounds!
How do you know if your dog is overweight? It’s simple; if he’s a four or five and a five point body condition scale, he’s overweight.
How Dog’s Become Overweight
There are three main reasons dogs are overweight; 1). they eat too much, 2). they eat the wrong things 3). they don’t get enough exercise.
Getting your dog back to a healthy weight just requires you to address these three causes in a way that works for both you and your dog.
Let’s talk about how we can do this and what worked for my Lab, Callie.
When To Contact Your Veterinarian
We recommend dog owners discuss their dog’s weight loss plan with their veterinarian before making any changes. This is especially important for dogs that have medical conditions, especially for senior and geriatric dogs.
If you have been following a weight loss plan for several months without seeing a change in weight, you should also see your veterinarian to rule out Cushing’s disease and hypothyroidism.
Plus contact your veterinarian immediately if there are significant changes in your dog’s health, behavior, appetite or appearance (other than gradual weight loss).
How To Return Your Dog to a Healthy Weight
Helping your dog lose weight should be a slow, gradual process.
No more than 4% to 5% of body weight per month should be lost. Rapid changes and weight loss are unhealthy and can be dangerous for your dogs.
1. Measure, Reduce and Spread Out
Measure and reduce your dog’s food intake, including all regular meals, treats, even food dropped on the floor and or cleaning your dinner plates for you. It all counts!
This way you can control the amount of food your dog is eating. If you are free feeding your dog now, it isn’t working and start by measuring out their daily portions can result in better weight loss.
Write down how much you feed every day, including treats and food scraps to help you identify ways to reduce extra calories. Begin by making a SMALL reduction in the amount your feeding.
Spread your dog’s meals out between 2 or 3 small meals. If your dog eats more often, she will feel less deprived as you cut back on your calories.
2. Reduce Carbohydrates, Increase Protein and Increase Moisture
If your dog’s diet is primarily conventional kibble, try bringing his diet more in line with his wild ancestors diet can help him lose weight and improve his long-term health at the same time.
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Weight-loss plan A:
For most dogs that have become overweight while eating a diet of conventional kibble, we recommend this dietary approach:
Add raw. First substitute a raw frozen or rehydrated freeze-dried or dehydrated food for at least 25% of his kibble. These foods are higher in quality protein and moisture and lower in carbs than kibble, and they’re closer to a dog’s ancestral diet.
Raw foods we like:
- Primal ( frozen and freeze-dried)
- Stella and Chewy's ( frozen and freeze-dried)
- Nature's Variety ( frozen)
- Vital Essentials ( frozen and freeze-dried)
- Ziwi Peak ( air-dried)
Note: Canned food may also be used in place of kibble.
Canned food we like:
High protein, low-carb, low-fat kibble.
Dogs seem to thrive when they get most of their energy from protein, not carbs. And research supports the belief that dogs that are losing weight need fairly high protein to support healthy muscle mass.
So after you’ve successfully transitioned part of your dog’s diet raw, transition the kibble portion of his diet to one that’s high in protein, low carb and low fat.
Kibble High Protein, Low Carb Food We Like:
- Nulo Freestyle Cod Trim
- Wellness CORE Grain Free Reduced Fat
- Canidae Pure Meadow
- Merrick Grain Free Healthy Weight
Weight-loss Plan B:
If weight-loss diet A doesn’t work for your dog, consider trying a low-calorie approach.
Foods we like:
Dehydrated - SOJO's, The Honest Kitchen Verve or Zeal
Canned - Tiki Dog, Weruva
Kibble - Wellness Healthy Weight, AvoDerm Chicken Meal & Brown Rice Formula Weight Control, Natural Balance Fat Dog
Weight-loss Plan C: The Green Bean Diet for Dogs
In its simplest form, owners add green beans to their pets' regular canned or dry food by increasing the volume by 10 percent.
Every 2-3 days, the green bean content of the meal is increased by 10 percent until all meals contain 50 percent regular food and 50 percent green beans.
It is fed until the pet reaches its target weight. The pet is then gradually weaned off the beans and returned to all regular food.
The Problems with Green Bean Diet: The biggest issue with the green bean diet is that your dog will feel hungry because of the lack of protein. The second biggest issue is the gassiness that comes from eating green beans! Trust me, it'll run you out of the room!
In addition, the green bean diet isn't the healthiest for a sustainable amount of time. If your dog only has a few pounds to lose, this will work. Otherwise your best choice would be to look at more added protein.
Other Ways to Help Your Dog Lose Weight
Physical activity burns calories and increases muscle mass. And it’s fun!
Interactive playtime is a great way to bond with your dog and help her burn calories. Increase the fun by finding a toy your dog loves. Keep it special by putting it out of sight unless the two of you are playing together.
Walk, run or swim. Research suggests that when people and dogs exercise together, both seem to do better.
Feeding games can make feeding time fun and burn calories, which can quickly help your dog to lose weight! Let your dog work for a treat or kibble that is released from a toy, like a snuffle mat as he plays with it.
Promote muscle mass
There are no quick fixes or miracle weight loss pills for dogs, but research shows that L-carnitine, an amino acid, can help dogs lose weight faster while gaining lean muscle mass.
Some dog foods include supplemental L-cartinine. If your dog’s diet doesn’t, consider supplementing with another L-cartinine source.
Your goal in helping your dog lose weight should be slow weight loss, no more than 4 to 5% total body weight per month. Don’t guess! Weigh your dog every couple of weeks and track the results on paper.
Most vets will not charge to weigh your dog. Once your dog reaches her healthy weight, help her maintain it by following the same approach, the right foods in measured amounts plus exercise.